'Mamata Banerjee offered to go to Kandahar as hostage': Yashwant Sinha recalls the highjack incident

Former Union Minister and BJP leader Yashwant Sinha joined the Trinamool Congress in Kolkata on March 13 ahead of the West Bengal elections. While joining the party, the senior leader recollecting the Kandahar plane highjack incident of 1999 said that the West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee wanted to offer herself as a hostage in exchange for passengers of the hijacked plane for the country. "The CM was ready to be a hostage and had proposed for it in the cabinet," the minister said in a video.

For the uninitiated, an Indian Airlines flight travelling from Nepal to India at the end of December 1999 had been intercepted by terrorists and was flown to Afghanistan. Having left from Katmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport, Flight 814 first landed in Amritsar airport and then Lahore Airport for refueling, then Dubai Airport before reaching Kandahar. The hijackers had demanded the release of several individuals, including Maulana Masood Azhar who would soon go on to found the JeM.

Meanwhile, Sinha also urged voters to vote for the Trinamool Congress and send a message to the government at the Centre. Today the former Union Minister joined TMC in presence of senior party leaders Derek O Brien, Sudip Bandopadhyay and Subrata Mukherjee.

The move comes mere weeks before the state begins a multi-phased Assembly election. It is not clear whether Sinha will be contesting. A few days ago, the politician had dubbed the upcoming state elections a "battle for India".

"The voters in Bengal will vote for the future of India in this election," he had opined on Twitter.

Contending that the country was facing an "unprecedented situation", the TMC leader said that while the BJP had believed in consensus during the era of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, today's government believed in "crushing and conquering".

Incidentally, TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee and Sinha had been colleagues at the turn of the century, both serving as leading Ministers in in the Vajpayee Cabinet. Recently, after Mamata incurred injuries in Nandigram, he had lambasted the BJP for its reaction. And according to him, this was the "tipping point" that prompted him to join the TMC.

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