Prime Minister Narendra Modi and union home minister Amit Shah had drastically opposite reactions to India’s decision to conduct nuclear tests in Pokhran, Rajasthan, in 1998.
According to political scientist Vinay Sitapati’s book Jugalbandi: The BJP Before Modi, after India conducted the test and the United States of America imposed sanctions against the country, Modi, then a BJP general secretary, played a role in mobilising the support of non-resident Indians in the United States.
“Ever since Narendra Modi was banished from Gujarat in 1995, he would travel to the United States, taking buses and trains and staying with NRIs, usually the network of Patels, across North America. By the late 1990s, Modi was spending so much time in the US that when then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee met him there on a visit, he joked: “Do you plan to settle here permanently?”
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“Soon after nuclear test, Modi activated his contacts among the diaspora to lobby the US Congress to ease sanctions,” the book says.
On the contrary, Shah, then a 33-year-old MLA from Gujarat, was upset by then Prime Minister Vajpayee’s decision to conduct the test. As per the book, Shah was so angry that he wrote to the Prime Minister. “Respected Vajpayeeji, because of your greed for publicity you have forever lost Pakistan occupied Kashmir”.
A puzzled Vajpayee summoned him to Delhi. “Amit Shah explained: ‘I was in touch with Morarji Desai after he was prime minister. Morarji could have developed nuclear weapons. But Morarji told me that if we both [i.e, India and Pakistan] become nuclear powers, we can never win back PoK through war,” the book says.