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Atal call fell on deaf ears

Atal call fell on deaf ears

india Updated: Apr 15, 2006 01:52 IST

AB Vaypayee spoke to L.K. Advani at least twice, asking him to “clarify” his remark about his opposition to freeing terrorists during the Kandahar hijack crisis of December 1999.

Hours after Advani made the remark at a press conference in Pune on April 11, Vajpayee called him and asked him to issue a clarification since he felt a “dead” issue was being brought to life. But Advani declined, upsetting Vajpayee.

On Friday, BJP president Rajnath Singh confirmed Vajpayee would not make it to Advani’s yatra rally in Lucknow on May 6 but denied it had anything to do with the Kandahar controversy. Rajnath said, “Vajpayee is undergoing physiotherapy. Since the course is for 20-25 days, he will not be able to visit Lucknow.” He said he had spoken to Vajpayee on phone and there was no reference to Kandahar.

During their phone conversation, Advani apparently explained his Pune remarks to Vajpayee and said he did not see the need for a clarification. But Vajpayee thought Advani should not have allowed the focus to be shifted to the Kandahar episode. He was upset that Advani did not touch upon the achievements of the NDA government. Kandahar was a low-point in Vajpayee’s tenure as Prime Minister and it was best left unsaid.

Advani consulted his aides after Vajpayee’s telephone call. They said he could not go back on his position when his opposition to the release of the terrorists was well known.

Advani felt he’d only responded to a question from a reporter and not made a statement. He was asked to draw parallels between the release of the three terrorists by the NDA government in 1999 and the recent Kerala assembly resolution demanding the release of the Coimbatore blast accused from jail.

All he had said was: “I don’t want to comment on it now after so many years. But I had said within the government what I wanted to say at that time itself.” He had added: “Then external affairs minister (Jaswant Singh) was only implementing the government’s decision.” He had refused to elaborate on what he had said within the government but it was interpreted as an indication of his opposition.