It’s now routine. The PM makes a statement, the PMO rushes to whitewash it with "Forget what you heard. Here’s what he really meant". But damage control hasn’t been all that easy since A.B. Vajpayee’s controversial remarks at a rally in Goa on April 12.
Post-Goa, his image has received its worst-ever drubbing. And the otherwise glib PMO spin doctors are desperate to provide a plausible explanation for Vajpayee’s Narendra Modi-like comment—Godhra was responsible for the riots.
To make matters worse, he repeated this observation a week later at former prime minister Chandra Shekhar’s 75th birthday function. Here Vajpayee said that had the entire Parliament condemned the Godhra massacre, "what followed could have been avoided". For this the PMO has come up with this explanation: the prime minister was "not justifying the Gujarat carnage, merely explaining it".
But it’s the Goa speech that has kept the PMO officials on their toes.The PM had observed: "Once Islam meant tolerance...