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Narayanan criticises Vajpayee for Gujarat riots

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, MARCH 2. Breaking his silence over two years after stepping down from office, the former President, K.R. Narayanan, has criticised the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for his handling of the post-Godhra situation. He also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party of preventing him from a second term in office.

"He [Mr. Vajapyee] did not do anything effective. I had sent him letters. I had talked to him directly," Mr. Narayanan said in a freewheeling interview to the Congress MLA, P.T. Thomas, carried in a recent issue of the Malayalam magazine, Manava Samskriti.

Claiming that there was a conspiracy involving the State and Central Governments behind the 2002 Gujarat riots, he said: "Had military been given powers to shoot, the carnage in Gujarat could have been avoided to a great extent."

"I had asked the military to be sent to suppress the riots. The Centre had the constitutional responsibility and powers to send the military if the State Governments asked. The military was sent. But if the military was given powers to shoot at the perpetrators of violence, recurrence of tragedies in Gujarat could have been avoided. However, both the state and central government did not do so," Mr. Narayanan said.

`Hidden agenda'

He said the BJP had come in the way of his becoming President for the second time, fearing that he would intervene in the implementation of their "hidden agenda."

"The BJP Government had [a] hidden agenda in many areas, including education. Securing the reins of education to spread their ideology was their aim. I had intervened in the appointment of certain vice-chancellors. Those, including Murli Manohar Joshi [the then HRD Minister] resented that," he said. "My interventions were democratic and constitutional. Above all, the interests of secularism was involved," he said.

"They had received legal advice on the possibility of my intervention if I continued in President's office. At a certain stage, they told me that they had decided not to support anybody for more than one term in the posts of President and Vice-President. Their aim was to get rid of me and they carried out that mission quite efficiently," he said.

Left's strategy

Terming himself a "Nehruvian Socialist" though neither a "devotee of Communism nor a blind anti-Communist," Mr. Nayarayan said the Left had supported him to become Vice-President and President after opposing him when he contested for the Lok Sabha from Ottappalam in Kerala in 1984 on a Congress ticket. "They [Left] knew that I had ideological differences with them. When they decided to support a dangerous non-Communist, special circumstances of the national politics were also involved. That was part of their political strategy. I had benefited from their support and their political positions received acceptability by supporting me," he said. — PTI

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