Hindupur (Andhra Pradesh), Apr 16: Seeking to put an end to the controversy surrounding the decision to exchange hardcore extremists in return for the release of hijacked passengers of an Indian Airlines aircraft in December 1999, senior BJP leader L K Advani today said he was surprised at the 'distorted reports and baseless speculations' about his remarks on the issue.
Speaking to newspersons about the news reports that Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee was very unhappy about Mr Advani distancing himself from the decision of the NDA Government because of his statement at Pune said he had expressed his views within the Government and the then Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh had only implemented the Government's decision.
Mr Advani's clarification comes in the wake of speculations of a discord within the BJP following his statement.
The BJP leader also stated that he wanted to put to rest all speculations and needless controversies.
The decision taken in December 1999 was solely to save the lives of innocent passengers on the Indian Airlines aircraft IC 814 hijacked to Kandahar, Mr Advani said.
''A question was asked by a reporter seeking to know how the NDA government could defend the release of terrorists when they were taking exception to Kerala Assembly passing an unanimous resolution seeking the release of a key suspect of Coimbatore bomb blasts which claimed 58 lives in 1998,'' the former deputy Prime Minister said.
''In my reply I said it was a considered decision of the government to bring hostages back and whatever Mr Jaswant Singhji did was to implement the government's collective decision. When the reporter sought for my views, I said I had expressed it within the Cabinet and I don't intend to share it with the media as it was an old incident to discusss,'' Mr Advani noted.
''I wish to keep the record straight to put an end to this needless controversy,'' Mr Advani added.
''There was a fundamental difference between the release of three prisoners to save 166 innocent lives and the Kerala Assembly seeking the release of Coimbatore blast accused Maulana Nazir Madani,'' he said.
The Congress and the communists want the release of Madani to garner Muslim votes whereas our decision to release extremists was for the sake of saving lives,'' he added.