New Delhi, July 30: The BJP today marshalled some of its big guns to attack the Congress for being "soft" on terror.
Comments by Digvijaya Singh and Shashi Tharoor on Yakub Memon's execution and the Congress's refusal to hear out home minister Rajnath Singh on the Gurdaspur strike triggered the allegation that the Congress was "anti-national" and cavalier about security issues.
Shortly after the Congress heckled Rajnath as he read out his statement in the Rajya Sabha, finance minister Arun Jaitley accused the party of being "petty" and "irresponsible" by projecting the country as a "divided" house after scuttling a discussion on a cross-border terror attack.
Jaitley told reporters outside Parliament that he expected Sonia Gandhi to clarify to the country why her party had conducted itself in such a manner.
"The Congress chose to disturb proceedings in Parliament on account of its own small and petty interests. It is clear that a serious issue like national security is not an issue of priority for the Congress," Jaitley, leader of the Rajya Sabha, alleged.
"I feel today Congress had an opportunity to display responsible behaviour. It was an occasion when issues of national security are involved - they should have risen to a level of statesmanship. Regrettably, they have failed that test."
Jaitley stressed that the evidence that the Gurdaspur assault was a cross-border strike was "overwhelmingly conclusive".
But he refused to say whether India was still open to talks with Pakistan.
"That is a view the government and the external affairs ministry will take.... That is part of a diplomatic strategy," he said.
Jaitley took on Digvijaya and Tharoor. He said Sonia should explain how some of her leaders had come out with "contrarian and politically motivated statements with regard to the punishment given to the accused in the 1993 Mumbai blasts".
In his tweets, Digvijaya had expressed hope that the government and the judiciary would show "similar commitment" in cases involving all terror accused "irrespective of their caste, creed and religion".
Tharoor tweeted against the provision of death penalty itself, saying there was "no evidence" that it "serves as a deterrent".
Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad accused Digvijaya of seeking to "question" the judicial process by suggesting an "alignment" between the judiciary and politics. "It is regrettable and unfortunate," he said.
Prasad said that while he had ignored Tharoor's tweets, he had been "far more troubled" by those from Digvijaya because he had been an adviser to Rahul Gandhi for 10 years or so.
Last week, the BJP nearly embraced Tharoor after Prime Minister Narendra Modi publicly praised his speech at an Oxford Union debate where the Congress MP had argued that Britain ought to make reparations to its former colonies, including India.
"There are two sides to Shashi," a BJP source said. "One is serious and scholarly and the other is frivolous. Unfortunately, the second aspect manifested itself today."
BJP minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy said that if Tharoor had felt "strongly" about Yakub, he should have intervened at the appropriate moment and not when the case was settled.
Amid the squabble over Yakub, BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma voiced the predominant sentiment among the party ranks.
"Justice has been done for the people who died in the 1993 Mumbai blasts," Sharma said.