A political turf war has erupted over the alleged links of some riot victims in Muzaffarnagar (U.P.) with the terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba. The Congress and the BJP were locked in a heated exchange of words, further stoking the controversy by raising issues of national security and communal politics.

Another dimension was added as the Union Home Ministry clarified on Tuesday that the two suspected LeT operatives had not approached the Muzaffarnagar riot victims as reported in a section of the media.

While the Congress claimed that party vice-president Rahul Gandhi had been vindicated, the BJP accused the ruling party of giving communal colour to a national security issue. Congress said Mr. Gandhi was right in saying that such riots provided recruitment ground for the intelligence agencies of Pakistan. The BJP has asked the Delhi Police to provide details about the meeting of suspected LeT operatives with riot victims. The party said as the issue was critical, it needed a full disclosure on what transpired in the violence-hit district of western U.P.

“We have only received partial information on the issue. As this is an issue connected with national security and communal harmony, we expect Delhi Police will probe all aspects and present the truth before the public. The U.P. police should also reveal what information it has got on the issue,” party spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi said.

In his response, senior Congress leader and party general secretary Digvijay Singh said: “If this information is correct that some persons from LeT had gone to the relief camps to lure refugees, then it proves right what Mr. Gandhi had said.” His reference was to Mr. Gandhi’s speech on October 24 at an election rally in Madhya Pradesh where he had recalled a meeting with an intelligence officer who told him that people from Pakistan’s intelligence agencies were talking to a few Muslim boys whose relatives were killed in Muzaffarnagar riots. Mr. Gandhi said the intelligence officer tied to talk to the boys and convince them not to get influenced by such persons.

Congress general secretary Shakeel Ahmed charged the BJP with thriving on communal politics.

“Whenever there is a communal riot, it is only the ISI and the BJP that rejoice. Whenever there is a communal riot, the BJP gets votes due to polarisation,” he added. Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said “those who believe in the politics of polarisation, who believe in the politics of communalism should become cognizant of the damage which they do to the idea of India.’’