'I covered up for Advani on Kandahar,' says Jaswant Singh

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New Delhi, Aug.21 (ANI): Breaking his decade-long silence over the hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in Afghanistan, former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh on Friday sought to embarrass senior BJP leader L K Advani further by saying that he (Jaswant Singh) "covered" up for him (Advani) when he said that the former Home Minister was not aware that he was going to Kandahar with three terrorists in 1999.

He also said Advani was aware of the decision to release of the terrorists in exchange for freedom of over 160 hostages kept in the Indian Airlines plane that was hijacked.

"Yes, he did," Singh told the NDTV news channel on Friday when asked whether Advani knew that Singh was going to Kandahar with three terrorists.

It maybe recalled that Advani had claimed a few years ago that he did not know that Jaswant Singh was on the plane with the three dreaded terrorists to Kandahar.

Singh was asked why he said during the election campaign that Advani did not know that he was going to Kandahar with the terrorists and whether he covered up for Advani.

"I'm sorry I did. I tried to cover it. I treated it as part of my continuing sense of commitment and loyalty," he said.

Asked whether he regretted covering up for Advani, Singh told NDTV: "I don't regret because that is the step I had taken. But it was part of an election campaign. How should I put it? I was being very conservative with truth."

He said Advani could not have not known about the decision to fly to Kandahar.

"I announced it in the Cabinet. Yes, Advani was there, how can they (terrorists) be released from prison without the Home Minister consenting and signing pieces of paper? he asked.

Singh said he felt very hurt when Advani said what he did and he went.

"I went and told him. I was really hurt. Look I have travelled this route to Pakistan in every possible fashion, the Lahore bus, to Kandahar, to Agra, Chhatisinghpura, Parliament attack. But I have never tried to transfer responsibility. I have never spoken, it was very hurtful," he said.

Singh also made a veiled criticism of Advani when he asked why the aircraft was allowed to leave Amritsar because once it left the "game was lost".

"Who would be responsible for the aircraft leaving Amritsar. For 45 minutes the aircraft was on ground at Amritsar. All of you are fixated on Kandahar. I didn't go to Kandahar because there was a good night club there. I went there because 166 lives were involved and the officers there asked me to consult if a decision was to be made," he said.

He even asked Advani what the latter wanted him to say.

"He said you say whatever you want to," Singh said.

Asked whether he would have expected Advani to stand up for him, Singh said "He (Advani) was not required to cover any misdeed. My going to Kandahar was not a misdeed. And I was not going on a holiday jaunt. 166 lives were involved."

He said it was a sense of commitment to India that required to save whatever another colleague has done.

"You know what the comment means. I didn't know. It's a comment not on Jaswant Singh. It's a comment on Atalji because there is a sense of collective responsibility of the Cabinet. We forgot ssentials." (ANI)

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