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Vajpayee wasn't keen on Kalam's Gujarat visit

In the aftermath of the 2002 riots in Gujarat, the then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee appeared to be not keen on the then president A P J Abdul Kalam's official visit to the state.

Giving an inkling of what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stalwart thought about his visit in his soon-to-be-released book Turning Points, Kalam said that there were also suggestions at the ministry and bureaucratic level against his trip to Gujarat after the post-Godhra riots, in which 1,200 people were killed.

The former president recalls that he decided to go to Gujarat as his 'mission was not to look at what had happened, not to look at what was happening, but to focus on what should be done'. But, at the ministry and bureaucratic level, it was suggested that he should not venture into Gujarat at that point of time.

He wrote, 'One of the main reasons was political. However, I made up my mind that I would go and preparations were in full swing at Rashtrapati Bhavan for my first visit as president. The prime minister Atal Bihari 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.'

He recollects that many apprehensions were expressed, among them that his visit might be boycotted by Chief Minister Narendra Modi, that he would receive a cold reception and that there would be protests from many sides.

'But, to my great surprise when I landed at Gandhinagar, not only the chief minister, but his entire Cabinet and a large number of legislators, officials and members of the public were present at the airport,' he wrote.

After he finished his two-day tour, the media wanted a message from him. And he gave it: 'I expressed my thoughts through a statement in which I urged the need for an intensified movement to completely eliminate communal and other forms of strife and bring about unity of minds.'
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