Panaji: Goa Congress chief Girish Chodankar on Sunday said former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to enjoy eating things that his party (BJP) now objected to. He was speaking at a condolence meeting organised by the state Congress for the departed leader at the party headquarters here.
The Congress leader, however, did not specify which culinary item he was referring to while making the comment. Vajpayee, a Bharat Ratna awardee and a three-time prime minister, died at the age of 93 on August 16, almost a decade after he withdrew from public life due to age-related ailments. Chodankar said had Vajpayee been active in politics in the last four to five years, the face of the country would have been different.
“If Vajpayee was active in politics in the last four to five years, he would have curbed the attempts to divide people on the basis of religion. He would not have let anyone dictate to the people what they should eat and what they should not,” he said. “Vajpayee used to eat everything. Those things which these people (BJP) are telling us not to eat, he used to enjoy them. He had the courage to confess what he was eating,” the Congress leader said.
Referring to a quote often attributed to Vajpayee, where the BJP stalwart said he was a bachelor but not a “brahmachari” (celibate), Chodankar said the BJP should have the kind of courage the departed leader had in making such admissions. Praising his secular politics, Chodankar said Vajpayee had once said an India which was not secular was not India at all. “In 2002, he had told then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi to follow raj dharma (in the aftermath of the riots that broke out following the Godhra train fire). India is going in a different direction. We need leaders like Vajpayee to give it a proper direction.
“We hope that a leader like Vajpayee is present in different parties so that India remains united and there is no division of caste and religion,” the Congress leader added. Leader of the Opposition in the Goa Assembly Chandrakant Kavlekar praised Vajpayee as a man respected by even his political opponents and a leader who stood for secularism, despite being in a party “which is against secularism”.