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Post-Godhra, Vajpayee was not keen on Kalam's Guj visit, says Book

PTI 30 Jun 2012, 20:15:38 IST
New Delhi, Jun 30: In the aftermath of the 2002 riots in Gujarat, the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appeared to be not keen on President APJ Abdul Kalam's official visit to the state, according to a book.

Giving an inkling of what the BJP stalwart thought about his visit in his soon-to-be-released book “Turning Points”, Kalam said there were also suggestions at the ministry and bureaucratic level against his trip to Gujarat after the post-Godhra riots in which 1,200 people were killed, most of them Muslims,

The former President recalls he decided to go to Gujarat as “my mission was not to look at what had happened, not to look at what was happening, but to  focus on what should be done”.

But at the ministry and bureaucratic level, it was suggested that he should not venture into Gujarat at that point of time.

“One of the main reasons was political. However, I made up my mind that I would go and preparations were in full swing at Rashtrapati Bhavan for my first visit as president,” he wrote “The prime minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asked me only one question, ‘Do you consider going to Gujarat at this time essential?'

“I told the PM, ‘I consider it an important duty so that I can be of some use to remove the pain, and also accelerate the relief activities, and bring about a unity of minds, which is my mission, as I stressed in my address during the swearing-in ceremony.”

He recollects that many apprehensions were expressed, among them that his visit might be boycotted by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, that he would receive a cold reception and that there would be protests from many sides.  “But, to my great surprise when I landed at Gandhinagar, not only the chief minister, but his entire Cabinet and a large number of legislators, officials and members of the public were present at the airport.”