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"Masood Azhar ji": Rahul's remark gives fresh ammo to BJP

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New Delhi, Mar 11: A war of words has erupted between the BJP and the Congress over Rahul Gandhi referring to terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad's chief as "Masood Azhar ji".

Union Minister Smriti Irani said the nation is shocked that Rahul Gandhi addressed terrorist Masood Azhar with respect.

A file photo

"Families of martyrs and people who lost their relatives in terrorist attacks want to ask him, why so much respect for a terrorist? Why he calls the Army chief a 'gunda' while respects a terrorist?" Irani said.

Irani took to Twitter to lash out at Gandhi.

"What is common between Rahul Gandhi and Pakistan? Their love for terrorists. Please note Rahul ji's reverence for terrorist Masood Azhar - a testimony to #RahulLovesTerrorists," she tweeted.

['Modi bowed before China with folded hands': Rahul derides PM over Doklam standoff]

Addressing a meeting of Congress workers in Delhi's Indira Gandhi Stadium, Gandhi attacked the BJP, saying, "These people with 56 inch chest, you would recall, in their previous government, the current National Security Advisor Ajit Doval went in an aircraft with Masood Azhar ji and handed over Masood Azhar there in Kandhar."

Targeting the Congress chief, BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "Come on Rahul Gandhi Ji! Earlier it was the likes of Digvijay Ji who called Osama Ji and Hafiz Saeed Sahab. Now you are saying 'Masood Azhar Ji'. What is happening to Congress Party?"

Prasad said Gandhi has caused huge pain to families of martyrs and embarrassed the country with his comments.

Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala accused the BJP and a section of media of deliberately twisting Gandhi's remarks. "Two questions to BJP & select Bhakt Media, who deliberately seek to twist the 'Masood' sarcasm of Rahulji- 1) Did NSA Doval not escort & release terrorist Masood Azhar in Kandahar? 2) Did Modiji not invite Pak's rogue ISI to investigate Pathankot terror attack?".

[Pulwama attack done with a toy, now brace for more warns Jaish-e-Mohammad]

Azhar and two other terrorists, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, were released from Indian prison in 1999 by the then BJP-led government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in exchange for the passengers held hostage on board IC-814 flight hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan. Azhar formed JeM after his release from jail. Since then, JeM, based in Pakistan, has been involved in terrorist attacks in India.

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