GUWAHATI, Aug 17 - Terming Atal Bihari Vajpayee a �true democrat�, former Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the late Prime Minister, who passed away yesterday, never discriminated anybody based on party politics.
�He did not discriminate between his party and the opposition parties. I knew him since 1971 when I was elected as a Member of Parliament for the first time, and I saw his brilliance and oratory skills while raising important and sensitive issues in the Parliament,� Gogoi said.
Recollecting his association with Vajpayee, Gogoi said when he took over as the Chief Minister in 2001, Assam was passing through a �financially difficult period�.
�We were unable to pay salaries to the government employees and we could not utilise the development funds of the Centre as we were not able to contribute our State�s share. I took up the matter with Vajpayee who was the Prime Minister then. Though Vajpayee agreed to my views, the matter was referred to the Planning Commission, but the plan panel did not agree, and so ultimately, he could not help me during that time,� Gogoi said, adding, �after a discussion with my officials, I requested Vajpayee to defer the payment of our State�s share and he agreed to it. That helped me to a great extent to overcome my initial difficulties, besides getting help from other ministries also.�
He said during that time there was a proposal to close down the two paper mills of Assam, along with the Bokajan cement factory.
�Accordingly, I took up the matter with Vajpayee. As a result, not only it halted their planned closures, but the public sector undertakings continued to operate until the completion of my chief ministership in 2016,� he added.
The former Chief Minister said during those days there was a ceasefire agreement with the NSCN (I-M), which was extended to the territories of Assam.
�I took up the matter with him to revoke the ceasefire on the territory of Assam. I tried to persuade him and he agreed to it. During that time, we could not start work on the externally aided projects, and he helped me in that matter also,� Gogoi said, adding, �Vajpayee helped my government in the construction of the Assam Secretariat complex.�
�I have great respect for Vajpayee. Whenever I approached him in difficult times, he was always helpful. As we all know, he was the man who did not hesitate to praise former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and described her as �Durga� after the liberation of Bangladesh. He was undoubtedly a great statesman. We need more statesmen of such calibre for strengthening our democracy, ensuring social harmony and all-round development,� Gogoi said.