Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a name which reverberates in one’s heart constantly, not for a reason that he was one among thirteen others to be chosen as the Prime Minister to lead this country, rather for waking up a country from its slumber of ignorance.
The word Statesman is a thumping word, rarely bestowed upon the greatest individuals associated with an indomitable world called Politics. Atal Bihari Vajpayee is one man who deserves to be called a Statesman.
I was just a 7 or 8 year old kid when I first got acquainted with a name called Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who had already sworn in as the tenth Prime Minister of the country. As a school going kid, the word ‘Prime Minister’ or politics did not mean much to any of us then. Most of the post-liberalization era kids of the 90s agree on one fact that, it was Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who sowed the seeds of positive political awareness in the hearts and minds of the youths of this country.
Atalji started young, may be at 18. He was jailed by the British for his involvement in Quit India Movement. Later he grew up with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and joined Bharatiya Jan Sangh in 1951. He rose to fame when he took the fight against the horrors of Indira Gandhi in 1975-77 and yet again landed up in jail during the infamous Emergency. Atalji built the BJP in early 80s along with his close aides Lal Krishna Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.
Vajpayee was an astute leader, master strategist of Indian politics, poet and an orator par excellence. Vajpayee took the responsibility of building Bharatiya Janata Party after it was decimated and reduced to just two seats in 1984 elections. Atalji succeeded in reviving the image of the Bharatiya Janata Party after the historic Babri Masjid demolition, made the party more acceptable to the masses of the country.
My memories of Vajpayee are associated with his speeches, bold policy decisions and his famous poems. I still remember the days of the late 90s when our country was still struggling with fine tuning the massive economic reforms, initiated by Narasimha Rao government of the early nineties. Those years were not that great as for as Indian politics is concerned. There were too many governments in a very short span of time. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who took the ruins at a critical time, stood tall amidst the chaos. Those tough years are often associated with two greatest incidents that would change the country forever- Operation Shakti and the Kargil wars.
We, as young kids had no idea what was it all about, but all we knew was Atalji had something to do with these successes. The historic press conference in 1998, when Atalji announced the success of the Pokhran Nuclear test and his outstanding leadership during the tough Kargil wars had inspired the whole nation. Those two incidents transformed my views about India as a country and Atal Bihari Vajpayee had everything to do with. We as kids looked him as the new Mahatma, talked about him, admired him.
Vajpayee was the epitome of Indianess. Atalji was a quintessential nationalist, widely remembered for his sharp extempore speeches. For a common man it was something magical. His speeches had a massive connect with the masses, especially his famous speech in the Parliament, after the fall of his 13 days old government on 27th May 1996. This particular speech, not only brought huge political gains for the party in the future, but also more importantly, it inspired a lot of youngsters like us to be a part of Center-right politics. The speech took Atal Bihari Vapayee and the BJP to every household in the country.
One thing stood out for me was his exceptional intent to foster relationship with the Pakistan. The historic Delhi-Lahore bus service to strengthen relationships between India and Pakistan was truly phenomenal. He even traveled to Pakistan during its inaugural run on February 19, 1999 along with other dignitaries and was received by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Vajpayee was the only person who had the guts to visit Pakistan in such a manner. His historic speech in Minar-e-Pakistan was an emotional moment for people from both the countries. After his poignant speech, Nawaz Sharif had joked to Vajpayee “Vajpayee sahib, ab to aap Pakistan mein bhi election jeet sakte hain (Now you can we even an election in Pakistan)”, such was a man Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In today’s world of political binaries, Atal Bihari Vajyapee will be remembered for his greatest political moderation. A Political touchstone of sorts, who represented almost everything that existed in a political order. An extraordinary politician, who did his politics beyond any permutations and combinations of numbers. He did the impossible task of managing a coalition which had so much inconsistency within itself and still managed to come out of it successfully, without any stains. When he became the Prime Minister of the country, he had very unusual coalition partners, he had a socialist like George Fernandez in his cabinet, a furious Mamata and also a mysterious ally like Jayalalithaa. Opposition parties respected him as much his own party did. In 1994, Atalji despite being an opposition leader was made head of the delegation, by then Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao to represent India’s case in Geneva. Dr Manmohan Singh simply called him the ‘Bhishma Pitamaha’ of Indian politics, referring to him as grand old man of modern Indian politics.
Atalji had won the mastery of that art to walk safely in the political minefield. It is astonishing that Atalji led a coalition government with 26 political parties, which is nearly impossible in today’s political scenario. He was also the first Prime Minister of India, who gracefully retired from politics in 2009; the term ‘retirement’ is elusive in Indian politics.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee is irreplaceable in Indian politics. A leader, not only appreciated by all political parties, but also among those world leaders, who received a huge respect across the globe. The loss of a leader, a nationalist cannot be expressed in any words. He has left a legacy, which we as a fellow countrymen should cherish and honour. For me, he was the greatest Prime Minister that India ever had. The legend has lived his life and its time we send him with the greatest grace and respect.