Only hours after the BJP attacked former Bihar Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi for calling wanted terrorist Masood Azhar "saheb" or sir, a senior party leader has offered the opposition a welcome target by making a similar statement.
Union Minister Jayant Sinha, who is contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha polls from Jharkhand's Hazaribagh constituency, used the honorific in a short quote praising the centre for its role in the United Nations Security Council's listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.
He was addressing an election rally in Ramgarh district of the state at the time.
Mr Sinha said, "This is a big moment for the security of the nation. The work we have done has been successful. Now Masood Azhar-ji has been designated as a global terrorist by the United Nations."
Pakistan-based Masood Azhar was labelled a global terrorist by the UN Security Council in a diplomatic win for India on May 1. China, which had blocked moves to blacklist him four times, finally dropped its objections saying it "found no objection after a careful study of revised materials".
The chief of terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, Masood Azhar is behind many attacks in India, including the recent Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF soldiers lost their lives.
Mr Sinha's comment comes after Mr Manjhi was quoted on Friday in a PTI news report while responding to a question on the United Nation's declaration.
In the report, Mr Manjhi, who is a key leader of the crucial mahagathbandhan or anti-BJP alliance in Bihar, said, "Efforts were on to get Masood Azhar saheb designated as global terrorist since Manmohan Singh's time but it was just a coincidence that the decision has been taken now."
"I think that this is not correct for BJP or Narendra Modi to take credit for this," he added.
The BJP had been quick to react and criticise Mr Manjhi.
"By addressing Masood Azhar as Saheb, Jitan Ram Manjhi has proved that the Congress and its allies have soft corner for terrorists. Is it in their political agenda to glorify those who kill innocent people of the country. Please reply Manjhi Saheb," Bihar BJP leader Mangal Pandey tweeted in Hindi.
Mr Sinha was also quoted as saying, "All of this work could never have been done during the Congress-led UPA government because the country was not respected around the world
Meanwhile, Rahul Gandhi had also come under fire for appearing to bestow a mark of respect on Masood Azhar. In March, the Congress president was speaking at a party conference in New Delhi when he too seemed to use "ji", or sir, as a mark of respect.
"You might remember Masood Azhar. During the previous government of the 56-inch people, today's NSA (National Security Advisor) Ajit Doval went in an aircraft with Masood Azhar-ji and handed him over," the Congress chief said.
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