Former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee favoured Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's resignation after the 2002 post-Godhra riots but his then deputy LK Advani was against such a move.
In his no-holds-barred memoir 'My Country My Life', Advani for the first time admits that he had differences with Vajpayee on Modi's resignation as he felt that the Gujarat Chief Minister was "unfairly targetted".
Recollecting the events, Advani says the image of BJP and that of the Vajpayee government had been hurt due to the "vitriolic propaganda by our ideological adversaries" after the outbreak of communal violence in Gujarat.
"This was weighing heavily on Atalji's mind. He felt that something needed to be done, some affirmative action needed to be taken. Meanwhile, pressure was mounting on him to ask Modi to resign.
"Although, Atalji had not expressed his view explicitly on this matter, I knew that he favoured Modi's resignation. And he knew that I disfavoured it," he writes.
The Leader of the Opposition also recounts his journey from New Delhi to Goa with Vajpayee on a special aircraft in April, 2002 to attend the party's National Executive. They were accompanied by Jaswant Singh and Arun Shourie.
"Early on during the two-hour journey, the discussion veered around to Gujarat. There was a long spell of silence as Atalji went into a contemplative mood, which was broken by Singh asking him. 'What do you think Atalji?"
"Atalji replied, 'kam se kam isteefa ka offer to karte' (Modi should have at least offered to resign)."
The chapter, however, is silent on Vajpayee's open expression of displeasure on Modi's style of functioning by asking him to follow the 'Raj Dharam' (principles of good governance).
Advani said although he felt that Modi's resignation would not help and was not sure whether the National Executive would accept the offer, he asked the Gujarat Chief Minister to offer to step down as soon as he arrived in Goa.
Modi complied and offered to tender his resignation at the National Executive meeting after recounting in great detail the whole sequence of events and the background of communal tension in Gujarat.
"The moment Modi said that, the meeting hall reverberated with a thunderous response from the hundred-odd members of the party's top decision making body and special invitees: 'Isteefa mat do, isteefa mat do (don't resign)," Advani says.
"I then separately ascertained the views of senior leaders of the party on this matter. Each one of them, without exception said, 'No he must not resign," the former Deputy Prime Minister recollects.
"Thus ended the debate inside the party on an issue that had generated deeply divided opinions in Indian society and polity," he notes.
On a personal note, he says "I was convinced, after talking to a large number of people belonging to various sections of society in Gujarat, that Modi was being unfairly targetted."
"He was, in my opinion, more sinned against than sinning," Advani says noting that he felt that it would be unfair to make Modi a "scapegoat" for what was decidedly a complex communal situation.