Rumours of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s death were taken too seriously in the BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday. An official function was cancelled and a two-minute silence was observed “in memory of the departed leader”.
However, on a visit to Delhi on Thursday, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made light of the incident, admitting that there had been a “human error”.
In the tribal-dominated Jhabua district, a CD showcasing the town was to be formally inaugurated at a function at the district magistrate’s office. But just when the deputy collector was about to launch the CD, someone received a phone call that Vajpayee had passed away.
Taken aback by the news, the deputy collector — an IAS probationer — announced a two-minute silence and then cancelled the programme without verifying the information.
In Ratlam district headquarters in the north-western part of the state, Chouhan himself received such a call just after laying the foundation stone of a housing scheme.
An official said Chouhan promptly got the decorative garlands on his car removed. But before cancelling his programme, he called up Delhi to check the information.
Referring to this near goof-up, Chouhan said in Delhi, “Even I was told by someone that Atalji had passed away. But I verified first before taking any action.”
He brushed aside the Jhabua goof-up by calling it a “human error”. “But you should not worry. It is said that a person about whom such rumours are floated lives long,” he said.
He visited the All India Institute of Medical Sciences to inquire about Vajpayee’s health.