Kashipur: Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday tore into BJP`s claims of being tough on terror as he raked up the `Kandahar hijack` in which three terrorists were freed by the Vajpayee government and claimed that 22,000 people were killed in terror attacks during the six-year NDA rule.
Taking on the opposition party which has accused the Congress government of being soft on terror, he said the then top functionaries of the BJP government, including prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, bowed to the wishes of hijackers while Congress always stood up to terrorists.
"Kandahar hijack happened. Their top leaders from number one to five saluted them (hijackers), asked them what do you want. Money was given to them. Terrorists were released and Jaswant Singh (then External Affairs Minister) went with them to Pakistan," he said addressing a public meeting here.
The Congress vice president was referring to the hijack of Indian Airlines plane in December 1999 during its flight from Kathmandu to Delhi. It was taken to Kandahar in Afghanistan and three dreaded terrorists were freed in exchange of the passengers held hostage in the aircraft for about eight days.
Jaswant Singh had gone along with the freed terrorists to Kandahar, which became a matter of huge controversy. Among the freed terrorists was Masood Azhar, who later floated Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit in Pakistan and it carried out a number of attacks in India.
The same terrorists, Rahul said, carried out numerous attacks in India including the one on Parliament in 2001.
He said 22,000 people, including soldiers, lost their lives in terror violence during the Vajpayee government between 1998 and 2004 because "BJP bowed to the wishes of terrorists and it also practised the politics of anger".
On the contrary, only 800 such deaths occurred during the five years of UPA-II regime, he said, crediting the Congress` politics of "brotherhood and harmony" for the sharp decline.