Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani is peeved at the media for ignoring what he has termed “complimentary observations” made by the then President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, on the Modi government’s “enthusiastic” cooperation to him when he travelled to Gujarat for a firsthand assessment of the post-riot situation in 2002.
In his blog, the former Deputy Prime Minister referred to “select” media reports based on Mr. Kalam’s book Turning Points, and said a ‘casual query’ to the then President whether his visit to Gujarat at that juncture was necessary was projected as if the Prime Minister (Atal Bihari Vajpayee) wanted to block the tour.
Mr. Advani said the book was yet to be released in the market but he managed to get the text of chapter 9, which details Mr. Kalam’s August 2002 visit to Gujarat, and said media reports on it were selective.
“I have often felt that in India’s political history no political leader has been as systematically and viciously maligned as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Bhai Modi. Do not these reports also reveal a conscious effort at vilification: the Prime Minister’s casual query “Do you consider going to Gujarat at this time essential” as the P.M. wanting to stop the President from going to Gujarat?
“Dr. Kalam has also referred to apprehensions he had heard that his visit may be boycotted. Dr. Kalam’s actual experience was totally different. Mr. Modi and his government enthusiastically cooperated with Dr. Kalam. Yet no newsman thought it worthwhile to report these complimentary observations of his.”
Mr. Advani quoted Mr. Kalam as noting in the book that as no President had ever visited an area under such circumstances, many questioned the necessity of his visit to the State at that juncture.
Mr. 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.”
What Mr. Kalam went on to add after this was even more significant, Mr. Advani said and quoted him: “Many apprehensions were expressed, among them that my visit might be boycotted by the Chief Minister, that I would receive a cold reception and that there would be agitations from many sides. But, to my great surprise when I landed at Gandhinagar, not only the Chief Minister, but his whole Cabinet colleagues and a large number of legislative members and administrators including the public were present at the airport. I visited twelve areas — three relief camps and nine riot-hit locations where losses were high. Narendra Modi, the Chief Minister, was with me throughout the visit. In one way, this helped me, wherever I went, the type of petitions and complaints and as he was with me I was able to suggest to him that actions be taken as quickly as possible.”