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Published in the 16-31 March 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Vajpayee did not do anything to suppress the riots: Narayanan

By M. Mazharul Haque

The Milli Gazette Online

The former President KR NarayananThiruvananthapuram: The former President KR Narayanan has criticsied former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, for his mishandling of the Gujarat riots 2002. He also accused Vajpayee led BJP government of preventing him from a second term as President.

He said that Vajpayee did not do anything to control the riots despite his directly talking to him and sending letters in this regard. His statements were first carried in a recent issue of the Malyalam magazine, Manava Samskriti. He was interviewed by Congress MLA PT Thomas for the write up. 

Naryanan in his interview with Thomas said that there was a conspiracy involving the state and Central governments behind 2002 Gujarat riots adding that had military been given powers to shoot, the carnage in Gujarat could have been avoided to a great extent.

The BJP had opposed his candidature for President for the second time, fearing that he would intervene in the implementation of their "hidden agenda"
The BJP government had a hidden agendas in many areas as education, and wanted take control of reins of education to spread their ideology. He had intervened in the appointment of certain vice-chancellors and his move was resented by some people including Murli Manohar Joshi, the then Union HRD minister. His interventions were democratic and constitutional and the interest of secularism was involved, he said. 

Close on the heels of his charges against Vajpayee and BJP governments, Narayanan said on March 3 in New Delhi that as President his limited powers set by the Constitution prevented him doing anything effective and as President he could only advise the PM. 

Siddharaj Dhadda, a Sarvodaya leader, expressed surprise over the refusal of Vajpayee to react to the charges levelled by Narayanan against him.

Dhadda said in Jaipur on March 3 that Vajpayee cannot escape avoiding his reaction to the comments of the former President. The excuse that the allegations are vague is flimsy He added that allegations are specific and clear. Dhadda even suspected a possible conspiracy involving the state and Central governments and demanded that Vajpayee should clarify his position in Parliament and if he fails to do it then somebody else should raise it in Parliament.

Narayanan’s remark has snowballed into a major controversy with different organisations seeking a probe into the charges. The Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee has demanded the Nanavati Shah Commission to inquire into the observations and the Jan Sangharsh Manch, an NGO, is also toying with the same idea. Experts opine that there is no legal bar on summoning a former President for deposition.

The BJP has termed Naryanan’s remarks as "unfortunate" and "contrary to facts". The party’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, VK Malhotra said on March 3 that it did not behove a former President to comment "contrary to facts after three years of the incident".

Refuting Narayanan’s claims that Army was deployed late and didn’t shoot at the rioters, Malhotra said that the fact is that 200 people were killed in firing to contain the riots adding that the army reached Gujarat in 24 hours and was deployed at the earliest in all the affected parts of the state. «

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