It was in 2002 when the dinner table discussions at home started becoming incomprehensible to 8 years old kid that I was back then. Vaguely do I remember, the words like ‘coalition government’, BJP, Kashmir, etc started bombarding the chats during every family gathering we had which always passed tangentially to my head.
My childish mind was so troubled and distraught over the question of why everyone keeps talking about Atal Bihari Vajpayee and not about my favourite superhero, Superman even on my birthday! What is he doing so miraculous in the nation that people are in an awe of him? Only to realise later that he was no less than a superhero for India when I took my first metro ride in Delhi. Yes, metro train in our very own country which all of sudden changed the outlook of the country from a poor nation which I used to read in social science textbooks to a prospering nation.
As I grew up and happened to pursue economics as my majors in graduation in 2012, I started reading about the economic trajectory that India achieved in the past two decades. That became a moment of political awakening for me and I could connect the dots of all the past discussions that I used to scoff at as a kid. The biggest deprivation that we millennials suffer is of not witnessing the strategic developments revved up by Atal Bihari Vajpayee that transformed the very face of India that we boast of now. This enlightening brouhaha moment made me delve deeper into the recent history of Indian politics.
Attempting to read scores of books and articles on the political regime of 1998-2004, I realised that India heralded a new era under the aegis of Shri Atal Bihari. What made me adore his leadership is his well-articulated economic policies that sustained the growth of 6%-8% amidst the chaos of Gulf war, Asian financial crisis, Indo-Pak terror attacks and Dot Com Bubble. He took the nation out from the shackles of dampening and a sluggish economy and provided a sturdy backbone for India’s future endeavours by investing robustly in human development and most notably, “Education for All”. The Golden Quadrilateral and other National Highways that we are travelling on seamlessly today are all his legacy. Despite these breathtaking developments, the puzzle that why he assumes massive respect of people got solved the day I learnt that he was the first ever India leader to render UN speech in the Hindi language.
His words “Quiet diplomacy is more effective than public posturing” still echoes in my head. His pioneering foreign diplomacy with the United States and attempts at resolving the troubles with the West post-cold war era deserve head bows. History is a testimony to the fact by imbibing the slogan of “Insaniyat, Jhamuriyat and Kashmiriyat” for the disturbed valley of Kashmir, he laid the foundation of a new Kashmir. I still doubt if any other leader before and after him could take on the challenge of this stature.
He was a leader who was much ahead of his time and dared to lay grounds for nuclear capacity and space technology for future India which would lead India towards the league of the leaders of the world. His dedication towards the service of nation is evident from the fact that despite massive backlash for his nuclear and space program at home and abroad, he shunned his short-sighted political gains for the larger interest of the country, and steadfastly carried on the development whose benefits we are reaping today.
All during my teenage I senselessly cribbed for being politically unaware during those times, and obviously, how could a child be! The years that followed 2004 had lost all the enthusiasm and passion that India had built during preceding years. The lull that followed made me more uncomfortable as the robustness in progress of the nation was nowhere to be seen and soul of the country was having a slow demise. There were no more family discussions in praise of India and soon my inquisitiveness dissipated too. The spirit of nation-building and nationalism which was invoked by Atal Ji was all of sudden missing until Narendra Modi took over the reign of the country.
The present government proved as a respite and seems like compensating on those good old days. Fortunately, the present government is treading on the footsteps of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s government and we once again got an opportunity to re-live the past days. Atal Ji’s vision of New and Transformed India is meticulously carried forward by Narendra Modi’s government by taking the nation on a fast-track mode as was done back in 1998. I just hope that today’s leadership does complete justice to the sacrifices and foundation laid down twenty years back.
India was truly blessed to have a statesman like him, whose tenure is marked as eventful and historic. He redefined Indian secularism, diplomacy and democracy. He was a man of charisma with the deepest understanding of his nation and its pupil as he always said, “India isn’t India if it is not Secular.” In the ending note from a fangirl, I must also admit that he, as a human being and as a leader has left an indelible mark in my life and has been my inspiration to pursue public policy as a career for myself.
(This article has been authored by Anchal Chaudhary)