Kolkata | Jagran Politics Desk: Former Union Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, who joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Saturday, claimed that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had "offered to be taken hostage in exchange for other passengers" during the Kandahar hijack of Air India plane IC 814.

Calling Banerjee a 'fighter', Sinha, who is a staunch critic of PM Modi-led NDA government at the Centre, said that the TMC supremo was ready to make "whatever sacrifice possible" for the country to save the lives of the passengers.

"I’d like to tell all of you that when Indian Airlines flight was hijacked and taken by the hijackers to Kandahar in Afghanistan, we were having a cabinet meeting during which Mamata ji proposed that she would go as a hostage but the condition would be that the terrorists should let other passengers go," Sinha was quoted by Hindustan Times as saying.

Indian Airlines Flight 814 or IC 814 was hijacked on December 24, 1999, by Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorists after it left Kathmandu for Delhi. Later, the Indian government led by former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was forced to release three terrorists, including Masood Azhar who planned the 2019 Pulwama attack, to free the passengers.

'Nandigram was the tipping point'

Sinha, who left the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2018 after disputes with the top leadership of the saffron party, said that the Nandigram incident was the "tipping point" that forced him to join the TMC and support Banerjee.

He also slammed the current BJP-led NDA government, saying it believes in "crushing and conquering valuable ideas". He also attacked the saffron party for mocking Banerjee instead of sympathising with her.

"BJP during Atal Ji's time believed in consensus but today's government believes in crushing and conquering. Akalis, BJD have left the BJP. Today, who is standing with BJP?," he said, as reported by news agency ANI.

West Bengal will witness eight-phased Assembly polls beginning March 27 while counting of votes will take place on May 2, the Election Commission said in February.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma