I remember the first words of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he had sworn in as the 16th Prime Minister of India, which was certainly more solemn than cheerful. ”I have a pledge to redeem, and a promise to fulfil.” Vajpayee was born into a high-caste Brahmin family in Gwalior, on Dec 25, 1925. He was barely 15 but already steeped in Marxism, when a friend took him to a meeting of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (National Volunteer Service), a neo-fascist organisation that has been the guiding force behind Hindu nationalism for much of this century. After entering the politics of the country, he climbed up step by step and now he is the spotless meticulous statesman of the Indian politics. He was the first politician, who addressed the U.N.O. in Hindi on October 4, 1977. He was adorned with “Padma Vibhushan” by the Indian Govt. on January 25, 1992. This was followed by another honour bestowed upon him by the U.P. Hindi Sansthan on September 28, 1992. And then on August 16, 1994 “Govind Vallabh Pant Award” was conferred upon him for being the Best Parliamentarian.
He was the first Prime Minister of India who is regarded as the non-controversial heart-throb of the country. He was held in high esteem not only by his party men but also by other members of the Indian polity. Undoubtedly, he was a great orator. He stood out to be a distinguished man in respect of his choice of words, effective pauses in between, sweet touch of sarcasm and humour, the style of speaking and above all, the quality of judging the moods of his listeners. Vajpayee’s problem was that he proved to be more popular with the 344 million voters than did the Hindu nationalist movement, for which he has been the principal Parliamentary standard bearer for 30 years. After coming into power, Vajpayee had to face problems but he faced all the problems with courage and sincerity. He took many ups and downs in his political life with great equanimity and bears malice towards none.
For many observers Vajpayee’s successful navigation of what was called an “unwieldy coalition” was his biggest achievement; others praised his optimistic foreign policy while others applaud India’s economy under his rule.
Those who have known Vajpayee for years say that for him the RSS was his alma mater where he had learnt the lessons of life. He once wrote, “[the] Sangh is my soul”. But as a practical man, he was not ready to be dictated to by the Sangh on every move that he made and every step that he took.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru had once introduced Vajpayee to Winston Churchill as the future Prime Minister of this country who travelled a long way to emerge as India’s towering politician, a leader who commanded respect and admiration not only of his party men but even of his rivals, not to speak of millions of his admirers across the world. The man was loved for his qualities of head and heart, his poetry, his integrity boldness, patriotism, qualities of forget and forgive, and the principle of consensus. He was one of the few who can brave the worst travails in life and political career and came out unscathed. He was an eminent national leader, an erudite politician, a selfless social worker, forceful orator, poet, journalist and indeed a multifaceted personality. He was an ideal for the masses. The message that clearly sprinted from his deeds was that even under the most trying circumstances we must never lose our values that have so long been our guiding star. He transformed the Indian growth story.
His exemplary service & leadership has had a very positive impact on India’s growth trajectory. Staying in the politics for more than 60 years as an active politician, both in opposition and the ruling party and retiring from it without any allegation on the character is one rare achievement. From an insignificant political player to a key leader, Vajpayee will be known for his several contributions. From leading a delegation at United Nations to introducing Lahore bus service to raising Kashmir issue, Vajpayee has really won the hearts of Indians and even opposition. Vajpayee was an outstanding artist, eminent poet and a true leader who always stood for the cause of the poor and downtrodden classes of society. Vajpayee’s name will be written in golden letters in the history of India.
(The views expressed by the author in the article are his/her own.)