Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.Reuters

The 2002 Gujarat riots after the burning of the Sabarmati Express at Godhra are likely to haunt Prime Minister Narendra Modi once again.

AS Dulat, the chief of Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) during 1999-2000, has revealed that former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had seen the anti-Muslim riots as one of the factors behind his 2004 election loss and that the BJP satrap was sad over the 'mistake' in Gujarat.

In an interview with Karan Thapar on India Today TV, the former chief of India's external intelligence agency talked about Vajpayee's 'unhappiness' over the brutal killing of more than 1,000 people in what is often described as an "organized massacre".

"You could see the sadness in his (Vajpayee's) eyes... Gujarat mein humse kuch galti ho gayi (We committed some mistake in Gujarat)," Dulat quotes Vajpayee as having said.

Dulat told The Economic Times that Vajpayee seemed to link the 2004 loss to what happened in Gujarat. "He said even Congress has been taken by surprise, not just us. And then along the way, Vajpayee said: Shayad hamare se Gujarat mein galati ho gayi. And then he got a bit serious and sad. I did not ask him anything further," Dulat told ET.

Dulat said Vajpayee was 'unhappy' about how Narendra Modi, then chief minister of Gujarat, handled the riots that broke out after a train carrying karsevaks was burnt on 27 February, 2002. 

Dulat has said Vajpayee admitted that the handling of the post-riot situation was a 'mistake'.

Modi, who was dragged to the court for his alleged involvement in the 2002 riots, was given a clean chit by a metropolitan court in Gujarat in 2013.

Dulat made the claim on the eve of launching his book "Kashmir: The Vajpayee Years".

More embarrassment is in store for the BJP as Dulat has revealed that Vajpayee viewed People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehbooba Mufti with suspicion.

He said that Vajpayee was of the view that she had links with Hizbul Mujahideen and accepted 'help' from the Kashmiri militant group during the 2002 elections. 

The BJP has a tie-up with the PDP in Jammu & Kashmir and is running a coalition government.

Dulat is currently a member of the National Security Advisory Board.