New Delhi: A political war of words erupted on Thursday over the execution of 1993 Mumbai blast convict Yakub Memon and the issue of terrorism, with a section of opposition leaders speaking against the death sentence and the government hitting back.
The recriminations began when Congress leaders Digvijay Singh, Shashi Tharoor and Mani Shankar Aiyar expressed displeasure over the execution of 1993 Mumbai blasts convict.
Terming Congress leaders' comments on the issue as "politically influenced and irresponsible", Finance Minister Arun Jaitley asked Congress president Sonia Gandhi to explain why they were making such statements on the issue related to the country's security.
"Instead of making national security its priority, they (Congress) have made politics their priority... Even on the execution of death sentence given to Yakub Memon, their leaders are speaking in different voices," the union minister said.
"Mainstream national parties are expected to react in responsible manner and not to show country as a divided house," Jaitley said.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh fired the first salvo, saying that the BJP-led government should show "similar commitment" in all cases of terror as it showed in the case of Yakub Memon.
"I hope similar commitment of the government and the judiciary would be shown in all cases of terror, irrespective of their caste, creed and religion," he said in a tweet following Memon's execution in the Nagpur central jail on Thursday morning.
Party colleague and former union minister Shashi Tharoor said he was "saddened" by Memon's execution.
"Saddened by news that our government has hanged a human being. State-sponsored killing diminishes us all by reducing us to murderers too," Tharoor tweeted.
"There is no evidence that death penalty serves as a deterrent, to the contrary in fact. All it does is exact retribution, unworthy of a government," the Thiruvananthapuram parliamentarian said.
"I'm not commenting on the merits of a specific case; that's for the Supreme Court to decide. Problem is death penalty in principle and practice," he added.
Communist Party of India (CPI) parliamentarian D. Raja, meanwhile, said that the death penalty should be done away with in the country.
"India should say an emphatic no to capital punishment.... It does not mean we do not have sympathy with those (blast victims') families, but by snatching away one life will not bring back all those lives," Raja said.
All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen leader and Hyderabad parliamentarian Asaduddin Owaisi said the government should ensure death sentence in all similar cases.
"Death sentence should also be given to Babu Bajrangi, Maya Kodnani, Col. Purohit and Swami Aseemanand," he said.
While Babu Bajrangi and Maya Kodnani are accused in the Gujarat riots, Col. Prasad Shrikant Purohit and Swami Aseemanand are accused in the Malegaon blast.
The ruling BJP slammed the leaders opposed to the hanging, Tharoor and Digvijaya Singh were forsaken by the Congress as well, which said it was their "personal views".
Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the views were that of the leaders concerned and not of the Congress.
Former home secretary and BJP parliamentarian R.K. Singh said those making such comments did not have national interests on their minds.
"These people don't think about national interest. Whether he (Yakub) had to be hanged or not was not to be decided by the government but the court, and the president uses his judgement after that," he said.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said justice had been done.
"Justice has been done; this increased the people's faith in the judicial process. He got two decades to prove his innocence, and he was proven guilty," he said.
Yakub Abdul Razzak Memon, convicted in the March 12, 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, was hanged till death at Maharashtra's Nagpur central jail on Thursday morning.
Meanwhile, the Congress demanded that Prime Minister Narendra Modi reveal what he discussed on terrorism with his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif in Ufa on July 10 as India continued to suffer terror attacks from across the border.
"The prime minister should make a statement on the issue in parliament," Congress leader Anand Sharma told the media here, expressing concern over the terror attack in Dinanagar town of Gurdaspur district in Punjab, believed to be carried out by terrorists from Pakistan.
Modi held a meeting with Nawaz Sharif in Ufa, Russia, on July 10 on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation meet.
The Congress leader said that Modi should be present in the house when the issue comes up for discussion.
"There should be no politics on terror. The whole nation is united on issues like these," he said, adding that the Congress always took a tough stand on terrorism.