Monday, December 29, 2008

Terrorists' demands were rejected: Digvijay

BHOPAL/MUMBAI: In what seems a political ploy aimed at arguing that unlike NDA, Congress did not succumb to a hostage situation, former CM Digvijay Singh has claimed - contrary to the government's position - that the Centre did not accept demands of terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

The Congress general secretary on Monday reiterated that government had not bowed to demands made by the Lashkar squad, a claim that security sources have dismissed. There were inquiries from Israelis over the claims but these were more to do with the possibility of securing the release of those trapped inside Chabad House.

Throughout the siege of Trident and Taj hotels, apart from Chabad House itself, security forces did not hold any negotiations with the terrorists. In fact, after the terrorists were shot, it was argued that an attempt could have been made to engage them - not to concede any demands but to buy time and possibly negotiate safe release of those trapped in the attack.

Yet, while the Congress spokesperson sought to wriggle out of the situation by claiming that Digvijay Singh had "clarified" the situation, this is not the first time that the former CM has courted controversy. He had previously said that it was "surprising" that when BJP was "in trouble (politically)" bomb blasts happened.

Digvijay Singh on Monday said he stood by his statement that the government had not accepted the demands of terrorists responsible for the Mumbai attacks. Singh sought to place his comments in context of media reports. He said that whatever he had said in Indore was based on these reports and there was no question of retracting his statement.

"I stand by what I said yesterday in Indore," he said. Singh's remark, which came a little over a month after the terror attacks on Mumbai, has created a furore.

He had said that unlike the BJP which gave into the demands of terrorists at Kandahar, the Congress-led government had not negotiated with the militants but had eliminated them.

Again, seeking to make a partisan point, he said there was a big difference between Congress and BJP and added that former external affairs minister Jaswant Singh of BJP had told a TV channel that he would again accept the demands of terrorists if a similar situation arose.

Yet, no just the Centre but Digvijay Singh's own fellow Congressman and Maharashtra home minister Jayant Patil said no demands were made by terrorists during the terror strikes. "From the information made available by Mumbai police, I can say that there were no demands made by the terrorists," Patil said.

"I am not aware on what basis Digvijay Singh has made the statement," the minister added.

Patil's colleague in Nationalist Congress Party R R Patil, who held the home portfolio, resigned on December 1 following criticism of his handling of the home department in the wake of the November 26 attacks.

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