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Was Atal Bihari Vajpayee ‘Anti-National’ for Questioning 1962 War?

If not, then why is the ruling government posing doubts about the loyalty of those questioning the surgical strikes?

Updated
Politics
4 min read
India’s former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. (Photo: PTI)

On Friday, former Congress MP Mani Shankar Aiyar reminded India Today’s Karan Thapar of one of Atal Bihari Vajpayee's speeches, in which the BJP veteran tore into Jawaharlal Nehru over his government’s “failure” during the 1962 India-China War.

Thapar raised a question to his panel – in the light of BJP President Amit Shah’s statements – if it was seditious to raise questions against the government or the India Army.

According to Aiyar, the dissension within the polity began after the BJP went public about the surgical strikes without taking everyone into confidence. On 29 September Director General of Military Operations Lt Gen Ranbir Singh announced that the Indian Army had entered Pakistan Occupied Kashmir and destroyed seven terror launchpads.

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Pakistan and a few international media organisations questioned the authenticity of the surgical strikes. Opposition leaders, who have stood in support of the strikes, asked the government to shut down the questions by showing the proof of the strikes.

The government did not take too well to the demand of proof and lashed out at those asking for it. Words like “loyalty”, “patriotism”, “anti-national”, and “traitor” became synonymous to “enquiry” and “questions”.

However, Former Congress MP Aiyar drove the debate home by refreshing the memories of Vajpayee’s 1962 offensive against the then Prime Minister Nehru as the nation went to war with China.

On 8 November 1962, Vajpayee made the Nehru-led government resume Rajya Sabha proceedings in the middle of the India-China war.
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Following are excerpts from Vajpayee’s speech on 9 November 1962, retrieved from the Rajya Sabha archives:

(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/The Quint)
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(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/The Quint)
(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/The Quint)
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(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/The Quint)
(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/<b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: Shalaka Shinde/The Quint)
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Vajpayee’s 1962 Comment is Congress’ Seasoned Political Weapon

This is not, however, the first time that the Congress has used Vajpayee’s statements, against NDA governments.

The latest example is to control the damage caused by Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s statement against Modi politicising the death of soldiers and surgical strikes.

The main Opposition party is facing some serious flak over Gandhi’s statements.

During the 1999 Kargil conflict, when Vajpayee was the Prime Minister, Congress demanded a session of the Rajya Sabha to discuss the situation.

Mr Vajpayee was least bothered then, about the desirability of the entire Opposition standing completely unitedly with our armed forces and to back the government in crisis. The long speech of Mr Vajpayee dated 9 November 1962 in the Rajya Sabha is to say the least intemperate and unbalanced.
Congress statement in 1999

Aiyar himself has used the 1962 Vajapayee statement as a weapon on earlier occasions. Part of an article written by him on 27 March 2015 on NDTV reads:

His (Vajpayee) high moment came in October 1962 when, at the peak of the Chinese invasion, he led a four-member delegation to see Nehru to persuade him to convene the Rajya Sabha. Nehru agreed, and Vajpayee launched into a scathing attack on Nehru’s foreign and defence policies. He was given his full head without interruption. It is a pity, therefore, that when the Opposition was calling for a debate on the Kargil invasion, Vajpayee ducked it, failing pathetically to rise to Nehru’s stature. 
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Aiyar also referred to the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, which remained in session through the two World Wars, and was severely critical of the government, even as the wars were raging.

Pointing towards an eventuality favourable to the Congress, Aiyar pointed out, that even the victorious Churchill lost the election right after the second World War.

(With inputs from The Tribune, NDTV , and India Today.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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