The Language of Politics in the Words of Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s attitude and ideology helped BJP to establish itself in national politics.
(This article has been republished from The Quint’s archives to mark Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 95th birth anniversary. It was originally published in 2018.)
Leaders of rival political parties often said about Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, “He is a right person in a wrong party”. But over time this stalwart politician and poet proved them wrong. He not only expanded the mass base of the party but also brought changes in its ideological orientation in keeping with the changing time. His liberal outlook always weighed heavily on the BJP’s politics.
Vajpayee once came to Parliament holding a letter from Sonia Gandhi. He had objections to certain words used in the letter. But the manner in which he raised his objection is a lesson for parliamentarians today.
Nehru vs Vajpayee
Early in his political career, Vajpayee posed questions to then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. He once said in Parliament that Nehru’s personality was a combination of Winston Churchill (British PM known for his indefatigable qualities and spirit) and Neville Chamberlain (British PM known for his policy of appeasement). After opposing his policies he compared Nehru to Ram. Nehru replied by saying he (Vajpayee) too will one day become the Prime Minister of India. With the passage of time Nehru’s prophecy became true.
First Nation, Then Party Politics
After Pokhran, India was under tremendous political and economic pressure. Vajpayee was willing to weather it all. His government claimed to be ready to deal with any situation. But Vajpayee did not like the continued criticism by the Congress Party and the Left on the nuclear test. He expressed his resentment in a manner that compelled the nation to think about the role and demeanour of the Opposition.
“I Am Scared of Infamy Not Death”
The exit of the 13-day old BJP government in 1996 was almost sure. Vajpayee’s government was in minority and the Opposition was repeatedly making the allegation that Vajpayee was indulging in power politics. The situation was grave and the party was entirely dependent on him. It was then that Vajpayee made a stirring speech that left the Opposition speechless. BJP remained saddled in power as Vajpayee infused fresh life into the party.
Out of 40 years in politics, Vajpayee remained in power for only six years. In 2005, he retired from active politics and handed over the chain of command to LK Advani and Pramod Mahajan.
In 2009, he suffered a stroke which took away his power of speech. According to people close to him, Vajpayee spends his days mostly in the company of doctors, physios and nurses. That’s the journey so far of the unblemished, fearless and unmatched politician.
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