CHURUMURI POLL: Is L.K. Advani lying on IC-814?

The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani‘s “charm offensive”, courtesy his memoirs My Life, My Country, has run into rough water thanks to his breathstopping claim that he did not know of external affairs minister Jaswant Singh‘s plan to travel to Kandahar to swap three terrorists for the release of the 160 passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines flight, IC-814. In an interview with Shekhar Gupta for NDTV’s Walk theTalk programme, Advani claimed he was also not consulted and that there was no decision in the Cabinet Committee on Security on the matter. “I didn’t know about it…. I came to know when he was going… I was not happy with the decision,” claims Advani, and adds helpfully that there was no money involved in securing the release of the hostages.

At one level, the prospect of the then Union home minister, purportedly the second most important man in the country after Atal Behari Vajpayee, not being aware of what was happening in his own government is revealing. At another level, Advani’s admission places on record the divisions within the Prime Minister’s Office, despite his tearful claims of “feeling lonely” in the absence of Vajpayee at the book’s release. But above all, it punches a big hole in the BJP’s claims of its “tough stand” on terror. Little wonder, the Congress has pounced on Advani, saying: “All the good that happened can be attributed to him, and all the bad to Vajpayee.”

Questions: Is the “Loh Purush” lying? Or is he conveniently trying to divorce himself from the embarrassing issue? Is Jaswant Singh being made a scapegoat by Advani? Or is Advani’s revelation a reflection of what happens in individual-centred politics? Does Advani emerge with his halo intact? Or does he comes across as a schemer, willing to shed “collective responsibility” for a decision at the altar of “personal grandstanding”? Above all, is the BJP’s claim of being tough on terror as bogus as that of the Congress? Or does it not matter because the hostages returned safely?