NEW DELHI (TIP): The Congress party stirred a controversy by putting Bharatiya Janata Party leader and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s photo on its official website. The photo was published with a caption that read: “Atal had said Modi did not follow Raj Dharma.

How can a person whom Atal Bihari Vajpayee had thought unfit to be even a chief minister expected to be given the reigns of the country (PM).” The Congress defended using Vajayee’s photo even in its official briefings. But the BJP asked the Congress to remove Vajpayee’s picture from its website. No leader in the BJP can match the stature of former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The founding president of the party, Shri Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India from 1998 until the NDA was defeated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance in 2004.

Shri Vajpayee was clear what was the reason for the defeat: Gujarat Chief Minister Shri Narendra Modi’s failure to control the communal pogrom in his state in 2002. He believed that the party will lose its credibility unless it took action against Shri Modi. “Some people wanted to remove him. I was of the same opinion,” said Shri Vajpayee in Manali. This is confirmed by Shri Jaswant Singh, who held key portfolios in the NDA government. He states that in 2002 Shri Vajpayee had even threatened to resign unless the BJP took action against Shri Modi.

The fundamental cause of Shri Vajpayee’s pain was that Shri Modi didn’t perform his Rajdharma. He did not fulfil his fundamental duty as the chief minister: protecting the lives of the people of Gujarat. Towards the last ebb of the Gujarat riots, Shri Vajpayee urged Shri Modi to “observe Rajdharma and not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or religion”. It is evident that Shri Vajpayee believed that the Gujarat CM had been not only inept but downright partisan in his handling of the riots. He wrote a series of letters to Shri Modi instructing him to do all that is necessary for the riot victims, but to no avail.

This raises the question that how can a person whom the tallest leader of the BJP wanted removed as chief minister, be the party’s Prime Ministerial candidate? Will a chief minister who failed to protect his citizens, who discriminated between people on the basis of religion, who made a mockery of people’s suffering, ever make a good Prime Minister? How can a person who failed in his Rajdharma as chief minister ever ensure a peaceful and prosperous future for the people of India? Having found a new icon in Shri Modi, the BJP is working hard to distance itself from the Vajpayee legacy.

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Consider this. Shri Vajpayee’s niece, Smt Karuna Shukla was forced to leave the party. She is presently with the Congress. Shri Jaswant Singh, a close confidante of Shri Vajpayee, has been expelled from the party. And Dr Subramainan Swamy, a known adversary of Shri Vajpayee who is even reported to have masterminded the downfall of the Vajpayee government in 1998, has been given a prominent place in the BJP! The BJP might forget Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But every Indian must ponder over the questions he raised on the man who is now the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate.Not just the handling of the riots, Shri Vajpayee believed that the Modi government wasn’t doing enough to provide relief and rehabilitation to those who had been displaced during the riots.