During a discussion today on the anti-terror Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Bill (UAPA) that has cleared both houses of parliament, an acrid exchange took place between Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.
The Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha last week, seeks to empower central government to designate individuals suspected to have terror links as terrorists. Till now, the government could only designate organisations, not individuals, as terrorists.
As Digvijaya Singh, along with party colleague P Chidambaram, argued against the bill in the Rajya Sabha, warning against its misuse by government agencies, Amit Shah retorted: "What happened during emergency? All media was banned, all opposition leaders were jailed. There was no democracy for 19 months, and you are accusing us of misusing laws? Kindly look at your past."
The Home Minister also took a dig at former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh and remarked that he was angry because he had lost the election. Digvijaya Singh, who lost the national election from Bhopal to the BJP's Pragya Thakur -- an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts - had accused the ruling party of fielding a terror-accused. "The BJP president (Shah) makes them candidates even as they are still facing charges of terrorism," he said.
"Digvijaya Singh ji seems angry, it is natural, he just lost elections... he said in three cases of NIA (National Investigation Agency) no one was punished. I will tell you why, because earlier in these cases, there was political vendetta and an attempt was made to link a particular religion to terror," said Mr Shah.
He also reminded that the BJP backed UAPA amendments when it was in the opposition as well.
"When we were in opposition, we supported previous UAPA amendments, be it in 2004, 2008 or 2013 as we believe all should support tough measures against terror. We also believe that terror has no religion, it is against humanity, not against a particular government or individual," the Home Minister said.
Digvijaya Singh had also accused the BJP of compromising national security. "We doubt their (BJP's) intent. Congress never compromised on terrorism that is why we had brought this law. It is you who compromised on terror, once during the release of Rubaiya Saeed ji and second by letting off Masood Azhar. We lost Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi and Beant Singh. But, we never compromised on terrorism," he said.
"You said demonetisation will end terrorism... You are heaping praises on Nathuram Godse, who was the first terrorist in independent India. How can we believe you," said the Congress leader.