Rahul Gandhi's close aide and Congress media in-charge Randeep Surjewala has rushed to firefight the controversy triggered by the Congress president using the words "Masood Azhar Ji" while making a campaign speech in New Delhi on Monday.
In his tweet, Surjewala has accused the BJP and the media of knowingly making an issue out of the 'ji' honorific for the head of the terrorist outfit that perpetrated the February 14 Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF Jawans were martyred.
He has claimed that the remark constituted sarcasm and has added questions along the lines of the attack that Rahul Gandhi was making in his speech, regarding the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA-1 government being responsible for the Pulwama attack as it had set Masood Azhar free in exchange for the safe return of passengers aboard the hijacked Indian Airlines IC-814 flight in 1999.
Below is the video in question, where Rahul Gandhi says "Masood Azhar Ji".
Rahul Gandhi's precise words, while speaking about the dastardly February 14 Pulwama terror attack, are:
"40 CRPF soldiers lost their lives. Who was responsible for the bombing? Listen, it was Jaish-e-Mohammad. Masood Azhar. Do you remember? Now, the one who has 56-inch chest, do you remember that during his previous government, the Security Advisor Ajit Doval sat with Masood Azhar Ji in an aircraft and handed him over to Kandahar."
No hint of sarcasm, either verbal or non-verbal, is immediately discernable in his remarks.
Here is Union Minister Smriti Irani's attack at Rahul Gandhi over the remark:
Rahul Gandhi has been criticised by the BJP for his and his fellow Opposition leaders' statements questioning the Indian Air Force over the February 26 air strike on Pakistan's terror bases across the LoC. The Congress president had been referred to by name by no less than the Foreign minister of Pakistan, Shah Mehmood Qureshi, in an interview where the latter was attempting to bolster his country's case.