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“Mamataji offered self in exchange for Kandahar hostages”, says TMC’s new joinee Sinha

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

Kolkata: A few hours after making a big switch to Trinamool Congress, the former BJP leader, Yashwant Sinha, was seen all in praise for his party chief, Mamata Banerjee as he recalled his days with her as a colleague.

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The former senior BJP leader said the Trinamool chief has been a “fighter” right from the beginning and that she had offered herself as a hostage in exchange for the passengers of the Indian Airlines plane to Kandahar in 1999, when she was a Union Cabinet Minister.

The former Finance Minister on Saturday joined her party in Kolkata, few days ahead of West Bengal elections.The 83-year-old had quit the BJP in 2018, after its top leaders allegedly sidelined him following the age-bar rule in the middle of the last decade.

“I have worked with her (Ms Banerjee) under Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee. I can tell you she has been a fighter from early on and she is still a fighter,” he said.

“I want to tell you today that when the Indian Airlines plane was hijacked to Kandahar, there was a discussion happening in the Cabinet. Mamatji offered to go herself as a hostage on the condition that the Indians are released in exchange. She was ready to make that sacrifice,” Mr Sinha said.

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Before joining his new party a little after 12 noon at the Trinamool Bhawan in Kolkata in the presence of Derek O Brien, Sudip Bandopadhyay, and Subrata Mukherjee, he met Ms Banerjee at her residence in the Kalighat locality.

For the uninitiated, Ms Banerjee was Railway Minister under PM Vajpayee government when the Kandahar hijacking took place. IC 814, an Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport, bound for Delhi, was flown to Kandahar with stops in between, including one in Amritsar. The then ruling BJP-government was criticised for handing over captured terrorists in return for the hostages whom the hijackers had threatened to kill.

The passengers were rescued only when India released three terrorists – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Masood Azhar.

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