New Delhi, July 3: In what could provide more fodder to the Opposition to target Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the NDA government at the Centre, former Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) chief AS Dulat has revealed that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, following the loss in 2004 general elections, had expressed his discontent over the handling of situation during 2002 Gujarat riots.
In an exclusive interview with Karan Thapar on India Today TV, Dulat said Vajpayee admitted Gujarat was a mistake. “You could see the sadness in his (Vajpayee’s) eyes,” Dulat said. “Gujarat mein humse kuch galti ho gayi (We committed some mistake in Gujarat),” Dulat quoted Vajpayee as saying.
Dulat, whose book – Kashmir: The Vajpaye Years – is slated to release shortly revealed many inside stories of the Vajpayee government in the wide ranging interview. Responding to a question about the relationship that Vajpayee maintained with the then Deputy Prime Minister LK Advani, Dulat said both leaders trusted each other. However, Advani was not happy with the way the then principal secretary Brijesh Mishra was given importance by Vajpayee.
Talking about the India-Pakistan Agra Summit, 2001, Dulat revealed that Vajpayee was tantalisingly close to sealing a deal with the then Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf but the talks failed at the very last moment.
“The summit started on a sour note. A night before the Agra talks, Advani during a meeting with Musharraf asked for underworld don Dawood Ibrahim’s repatriation. Surprised by Advani’s straight talk, Musharraf had then said ‘let’s go to Agra’. There was too much pressure on Vajpayee,” Dulat said.
The former R&AW chief recalled asking Brijesh Mishra about what actually happened and what was the reason behind the talks failing. “Bas hotey hotey reh gaya (It was about to happen but …),” Mishra had then told Dulat.
Dulat also claimed that the NDA government completely mishandled the IC-814 hijacking case. “No body wanted the Air India plane to leave Amrtisar. But nobody took the important decision fearing collateral damage. The crisis group in 1999 mishandled the IC-814 hijacking case,” he added.
Dulat recalled that Farooq Abdullah, then J&K chief minister, shouted at him for “hours together” during their meeting after a decision was taken to release three hardcore militants in exchange for the freedom of the passengers of the hijacked Indian Airlines plane. Dulat said that Farooq felt the decision by the Union Government was a “mistake” and he had stormed off their meeting to call on Governor Girish Chander Saxena with an intention to resign.
Vajpayee wary of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed
The former R&AW chief also claimed that former PM Vajpayee was wary of Mufti Mohammad Sayeed becoming Jammu and Kashmir chief minister. “There were multiple reasons why Vajpayee didn’t want Mufti as J&K chief minister. He wantedSonia Gandhi to reject the idea of Mufti taking over CM’s chair. There were also doubts that Mehbooba Mufti had links with banned terror group Hizbul Mujahideen,” Dulat said.
When asked how Vajpayee would have handled BJP’s dealing with Mufti Sayeed had he been active in politics today, Dulat said, “Vajpayee would have given Mufti more space. Vajpayee was revered in Kashmir, he still is. Modi is restricting Mufti.”
Vajpayee offered Farooq Abdullah Vice-President post
During the interview, Dulat revealed that Vajpayee wanted Farooq Abdullah to come to Delhi and allow his son Omar to rule in the Valley. The former PM had then offered Farooq Vice-President’s chair. Vajpayee in 2002 promised to make the National Conference leader the Vice President, but later reneged on his promise.
“Vajpayee was impressed by Omar Abdullah. He was fond of the young leader. Vajpayee wanted Farooq Abdullah in Delhi and Omar to lead in J&K. Farooq was offered VP’s post by Brijesh Mishra on behalf of Vajpayee. Farooq, however, always felt Delhi didn’t trust him. He knew Delhi will let him down,” Dulat said.
Farooq’s favour to Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief
Continuing his revelations, the former R&AW chief said that former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah had once facilitated the admission of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief Syed Salahudeen son’s admission in a college. “Salahudeen rang the IB head in Srinagar for the favour and Farooq Abdullah actually facilitated the admission. However, this was an exceptional case for an exceptional man,” Dulat said.
2015 Kashmir Despatch