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Atal Bihari Vajpayee- The Poet, Patriot and Politician

(December 25 is his 96th Birth Anniversary)

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee- The Poet, Patriot and Politician

By: M.R. Lalu
The greatness of values that a democracy upholds comes through a variety of inclusive processes and procedures. In a democratic framework, political parties normally act as a medium for conveying the ideals that they represent. Different parties enter the political arena with different ideological inclinations and their effective implementations within the framework of a democratic system give them greater acceptance and failing to which many such parties become extinct. Democracy in India is a perfect example for this mishmash of ideologies that come face to face and fights for relevance. Hundreds of such parties that entered into the fray of gaining relevance have disappeared leaving little ripple effect. India’s democratic process also witnessed parties crossing more than a century and the Congress qualifies accolades for such a feat. The Congress is the oldest political party that came with a purpose, the purpose of uniting the nation against colonial aggression. Spanning from the Mahatma of India to Nehru to Indira Gandhi to Pranab Mukherjee, the range of leaders it produced for the welfare of the nation was absolutely appreciable.
Unlike the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) comes from a different genesis. Its journey was a struggle to gain importance as its ideological undertone was not easily assimilative. Great efforts were needed for the party to make an impact and its struggles sculptured great leaders with discipline. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was one among those stalwarts who brought the party to its distinctive stature of political recognition. One of the most charismatic leaders of the Jana Sangh from the days of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Deendayal Upadhyaya, he watered its nationalistic ideals and helped it grow into its present version, the BJP. Vajpayee’s clarity of vision and his profound poetic oratory separated him from the rest of the leaders. Prophetic were his insights and impressive were his perspectives. Since his first election to the parliament in 1957, he did not take much time to become the voice of the people through his excellent erudition.
Deendayal Upadhyaya’s death in 1968 pushed an already known Vajpayee for his leadership qualities in his party to its forefront as its President. The days of emergency in 1975 came as a testing period for the Jan Sangh which by then had grown into its formidable reputation as a strong contender to oppose the wayward aggressiveness of the Indira era. Being jailed by Indira Gandhi during the dark days of emergency, Vajpayee had earned the reputation of being one among the rarest of leaders who the country would listen with conviction. Emergency proved the requirement of a stronger political consolidation. Multiple political ideologies melting into one amalgam of Janata Party seemed to create history by boldly withstanding the ruthless authoritarian ways of the Indira Raj and Vajpayee remained instrumental in its formation. Independent India witnessed the first non-Congress prime minister Morarji Desai holding the chair under the new framework. Though the Jana Sangh dissolved into the Janata Party, its stalwarts Vajpayee and Advani remained ideologically rooted and personally disciplined and connected with their alma mater the RSS. Controversy on their ‘dual-member issue’ found them bagging an expulsion from the party and the historic journey of the present Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began. Inaugurated in 1980, the party decided to contest the elections that came soon after the assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984. The BJP won only two seats but its tallest leader Vajpayee had to face his rout in Gwalior.
The BJP found its scope streaming brighter in the Ayodhya movement, a juncture that the party decided to involve with meticulous calculations. This was the churn that later got transformed into a storm. The party with its veteran leader L.K. Advani launched the Ram Rath Yatra in 1990. The movement was as predicted a great turning point for the party. But Vajpayee, with his luminous exuberance and moderate persona, remained passive on one of the most aggressive political movements that turned his party to bag prospects in abundance. He remained a passive witness while his close confederate Advani rode on the chariot from Somnath to Ayodhya, a long stretch of the land, proclaiming his party’s commitment to Lord Ram. Though the movement gained greater acceptance for Advani in his party as a Hindu hardliner, Vajpayee was still known to have represented the moderate and soft face of its liberal side. Interestingly, the duo remained comrades for more than five decades and no disputes of any kind could dismantle their proximity. After the Rath Yatra and the successive demolition of the Babri structure in Ayodhya in 1992, Vajpayee was nominated as the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate in 1996. Though the BJP formed the government at the centre, Vajpayee had to resign after 13 days as he failed to prove the majority in the parliament.
The communal violence in Gujarat attracted severe condemnation to the BJP government at the centre and the one that ran the state under Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Outcries for Modi’s resignation were heard from all corners. There were leaders who felt that Modi should step down as the Chief Minister. This was one of the occasions that Vajpayee had to mentally distance from an obstinate Advani, who stood in complete support for Modi. Vajpayee is known to have advised the Chief Minister to follow ‘Rajdharma’ (protecting each one of his subjects). Vajpayee wanted Modi to at least offer his resignation. Had Advani been not in support of Modi, under severe pressure from within the party with Vajpayee pushing it harder, the Chief Minister would have resigned. But the party’s National Executive in Goa decided to hear the whole episode of riots from Modi and his explanation was acceptable to the assembled members. Though Modi was ready to offer his resignation, the party insisted him not to do so. Had he resigned then, probably, the course of India’s political scenario would have been different today. The BJP and its leadership were deeply hurt and cornered by the vitriolic propaganda of their opponents.
Vajpayee’s patriotism was unchallengeable. This was evident in his beautiful poems as well. The Indian parliament frequently witnessed his excellent oratory in its incredible poetic resonance. In one of his excellent expressions he writes, “When have I desired that, after attaining freedom, I should enslave the world? I have all long taught only how to control one’s own mind. How many atrocities have I committed in the name of Ram and Krishna? When did I commit carnages in home after home to convert others to Hinduism? Will someone tell me how many mosques did I break in Kabul? My resolve has been to conquer not territories, but the hearts of millions of human beings. My body is Hindu, my mind is Hindu, my life is Hindu, and the identity of every blood vessel is Hindu.” This poetic expression stretches our nerves into the reality of atrocities that India faced and its cultural harmony that remained unfathomably content and compassionate on every aggression that the country received. Vajpayee was the rarest breed among statesmen who went beyond the conservative approach of exclusivist mindset and enmity in politics. In his third attempt he brought the best coalition government that ruled the country its full term.
(The author is Freelance Journalist)

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