Gujarat riots: Book recalling tensions between Narendra Modi, Atal Bihari Vajpayee submitted to panel
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According to Chowdhury, when he communicated to the PMO that "any attempt on our part without a request from the state government would create a conflict", the PM "desired that the intervention be taken up under the flag of the Indian Red Cross Society".
Chowdhury writes that Vajpayee told the health minister — presumably C P Thakur — to proceed to Ahmedabad immediately, taking Chowdhury along. "The insistence that I accompany the minister was perhaps because I was the seniormost Muslim officer of the central government..."
According to Chowdhury, the programme drawn up by the then Gujarat chief secretary "avoided a visit to the relief camps in the worst-hit areas". The health minister "had received information from the PMO about the dismal living conditions at the camp located at Shah-e-Alam; he was keen on visiting that relief camp", Chowdhury writes. But the Gujarat government "opposed it firmly", and the minister "had to agree... as there was no other way of obtaining cooperation for the uninvited trip".
According to Chowdhury, "plain-clothes men" took the minister away when riot victims tried to raise the issue of their rehabilitation. He narrates a dramatic exchange between the central minister and Gujarat's Ashok Bhatt:
"...My minister had again raised the question of visiting the Shah-e-Alam camp... Ashokbhai went completely berserk. He screamed that my minister doubted his word when he said that the Shah-e-Alam camp was in good order. He was flushed in the face and stammering to the point of incoherence. At one stage, with a manic glint in his eye, he told my minister that if he pressed for going to that particular camp, he would jump out of the moving car in protest!"
During Modi's first visit to Delhi after the riots, the chief minister, Chowdhury writes, "in his usual declamatory style announced how the response of the state machinery had been prompt and effective", and "the PM sat slouched in his seat bearing his trademark pout. He looked distinctly uncomfortable."
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