Of oratory and statesmanship: Life and legacy of Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Once during a debate in Parliament, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was so critical of the government that the then Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru commented that he should become India's Prime Minister one day.
That day did arrive and how. In 1996, Atal Behari Vajpayee took oath to become the first BJP prime minister of the country. The government lasted for only 13 days. Then again in 1998, he took command of the country and the government lasted 13 months. IN the elections that ensued, NDA again took the delhi citadel, and Vajpayee achieved a feat of steering a non congress government to its full term.
And the rest, as they say, is history.
Born on December 25, 1924, in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh Vajpayee has a long parliamentary experience spanning over four decades. He was first elected to parliament in 1957 and was an active member of the parliament till 2004, when he was relected from Lucknow for a record 5th time. He was elected to the 5th, 6th and 7th Lok Sabha and again to the 10th, 11th 12th and 13th Lok Sabha and to Rajya Sabha in 1962 and 1986. He is the only parliamentarian elected from four different States at different times – UP, Gujarat, MP and Delhi.
One of the most charismatic leaders in Indian politics, a leader who struck an instant chord not only with the masses but also with opposition leaders, a born orator, whose free flowing speeches and extempore statements were admired by friends and opponents alike, a persona which is adored across party lines and above all, a fine human being who never lost his subtle sense of humor – ATAL BEHARI VAJPAYEE.
He is lauded as a statesman politician whose acceptability across the board was instrumental in attracting many parties and outfits to the NDA umbrella, a move that broke barriers and catapulted BJP to power in Delhi.
Considered a master politician, it was his gentle manners and finesse that made the difference as many regional leaders shed their inhibition and ultimately accept his leadership and join the alliance. It was no mean task because till then the BJP was virtually considered an untouchable party by the regional satraps.
Vajpayee managed to not only cobble the coalition, but also achieved a commendable feat of running the government with 24 allies for a full term. Many still believe that it was his reassuring presence that acted as a cohesive force keeping all the allies glued to the NDA camp.
If his oratory skills pulled crowds to the election rallies, it was his affable and pleasant demeanor that was the driving force for the all important alliance.
He was soft spoken, but was never shy of taking bold decisions, even if they were seemingly fraught with political hazards. His initiative to start the Lahore Delhi Bus service and go to Pakistan is certainly a case in point.
The vagaries of alliance politics didn’t , however, stop him from undertaking a calculated decision of going ahead with the Pokhran Nuclear tests. Undeterred by the threat of sanctions or political alienation in the world fora, Vajpayee’s conviction stood him good as India registered its nuclear prowess and also underlined its ability to withstand sanctions, economic or otherwise.
The same belief was apparent when he chose to address UN General assembly in Hindi.
Known for his political acumen ,he proved that he had a deep sense of economic foresight when he started his ambitious Golden Quadrilateral project. He is credited with doing all the groundwork that pitchforked indian economy with a sustained growth year after year.
Few Indian Prime Ministers have left such a dramatic impact on society. His presence in Parliament during debates meant that the reply or the intervention will have all the elements of his trademark style and demeanor. He was opposition leader for 40 long years, but that length of time didn’t leave any regrets or frustration. Rather it enriched him with friends and admirers spanning across the political spectrum. Even the most vocal BJP opponents deployed carefully drafted words bordering on silent admiration when they had to give opinion on him.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee , a life time spent in politics, a life dedicated to nation, a life journey characterised by caravan of admiration and friendship.