“O Lord! Never lift me up to such a mighty height as to make me forget to embrace my fellow-beings”. -Atal Bihari Vajpayee
1947 was the year when India got freedom from the colonial rule and we chose to continue our voyage on a democratic path, an idea very much inspired by the two superpowers – the United Kingdom and the United States. Though Ambedkar, Pandit Nehru, Gandhi, Shastri and Patel were called the architects of India but if ever one chooses to write the story of independent India, the story will not be completed without mentioning the name of one more hero- Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Western World calls 25th December as Christmas Day, but in India this day will always be remembered as Atal’s birthday. Born in a middle-class family, Vajpayee‘s tryst with Indian politics began in August 1942, when he was arrested for 23 days during the Quit India movement. His alignment with the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (R.S.S.) was seen since his student days and served his early days as a Pracharak of RSS. It was 1951, when he was deputed to work for the right-wing political party formed Bharatiya Jana Sangh, he was for the first time seen as a leader. Soon in 1957 he was elected as member of Lok Sabha. Since then there was no looking back. His oratorial skills compelled Pandit Nehru that to predict that Vajpayee would someday become India‘s Prime Minister he made Nehru’s prediction come true. He soon became the face of the Jana Sangh. This was the rise of a man in Dhoti and kurta who decided to remain unmarried all his life to serve the nation in best possible ways. An emergency hero who was detained during Emergency in 1975-77, Atalji as a Minister of External Affairs in 1977 Vajpayee became the first person on the planet to deliver a speech in the U.N. General Assembly in Hindi. No one before him volunteered to do so and not many after him dared to do that. By early 1980s, the world recognized himself as a statesman and a respected political leader.
With his BJS and RSS colleagues, he founded the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980. With Vajpayee as party’s first President, BJP established itself as a strong and capable alternative to the Indian National Congress. In a country which was though democratic but was always seen to be one party-country, he has been credited for giving the country the concept of bipolar polity and thereby brought much needed change to Indian politics. After the drastic incident of Ayodhya in 1992, he was one of the few right wing leaders to speak out openly against the destruction of the historic mosque. Widely respected within the country and abroad for his honesty, Vajpayee‘s 1st term as Prime Minister lasted for just 13 days. But he rose again and his rise proved the country’s structures were not weak, and sworn in as PM for the second time. The world called his short lived second term ‘one year of courage of conviction’. This was the time when the world started recognizing India as a growing power. This was the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. It was during this period that India
entered into the elite group of nuclear-nations following a series of successful nuclear tests at Pokharan in May 1998. Unmoved by the West criticism, Vajpayeeji called it to be an emboldening step to secure nation’s security. He made it clear to the world, India would not be the first to use nuke weapon in a war. His aim was not only to make India a self-relied nation but also to achieve global peace. With the historic inauguration of the Delhi-Lahore bus service in 1999, Vajpayee began his peace mission aimed at resolving conflicts with Pakistan. Later, when Pakistan betrayed his gesture of friendship, Vajpayeeji made his stand clear that the country cannot compromise with motherland; he successfully handled the situation in repulsing back the intruders from the Indian soil in Kargil war.
For Vajpayee and India the best was yet to come.
After scoring a comfortable total in the, the Vajpayee led NDA government was formed, ending a period of political instability and he became the first non-Congress PM to complete a term of 5 years. His third term saw many ups and downs. Under extreme public pressure for the safe release of the hostages in Hijack, the NDA government sent Jaswant Singh with the terrorists to Afghanistan and exchanged them for the passengers. Vajpayee tried to complete undone task; he invited Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for a joint summit and peace talks. Though the conclusion was not epic, he was hailed for his call. During this term, Vajpayee brought many domestic economic and infrastructural reforms, including encouraging the private sector and foreign investments, reducing governmental waste, encouraging research and development and privatisation of some government owned corporations. The major projects were the National Highway Development Project and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana and Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan which aimed at improving the quality of education in primary and secondary schools. For the world, India was no longer a place of dust and poverty and growing importance of India was clear when Bill Clinton paid a state visit to India.
A confident Vajpayee dissolved the house before the completion of its term. But his slogan of “India Shinning” could not muster much support and BJP was forced to sit in opposition. Accepting moral responsibility for the defeat, he decided not to take up the position of the Leader of the Opposition. Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced his retirement from politics, ushering in an era of uncertainty for the country’s principal opposition party and his exit left a void in country’s leadership.
He is no doubt steadfast Hinduwadi but yet the people of minority communities repose their unassailable confidence in him. He always believed he belongs to all and all belong to him. Well known and respected for his love for poetry and as an eloquent speaker, Shri Vajpayee was never again seen addressing public again. This is the story of a parliamentarian elected from four different States at different times; a spotless meticulous statesman of the country; an orator; non-controversial heart-throb of the country.
If my one wish is to be fulfilled, I would choose to go back to his the time, the time he was roaring, the time India was shining. Long live the legend, Long live his ideology.
About the writer: Aditya Ashok is 2nd year engineering student pursuing BE IT, a nation’s patriot and a political junkie.