Curly hair, twinkling naughty eyes one moment and deep gaze in another, a lyrical voice with a charming lisp speaking in chaste poetic Hindi. That was what attracted me to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The one guy who fired my imagination of how one could take on an adversary, even one without morals or intention of quid pro quo, and yet be civil. How one could be poetic and yet strong enough to rout the enemy from the nation’s territory or blast the nukes without blinking.
All these came naturally to Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Father of Modern Bhartiyata.
It must have been in the 1980 or 1984 elections that Vajpayee came to Karol Bagh to give a speech. I had grown up on tales about his legendary oratory from my father, who shared his birth year. And, here was finally the time when I could listen to him in person. From Arya Samaj road cross-section of Ajmal Khan road, all the way to almost Roshan di Kulfi – the entire road was full of people. I could barely see him. But I listened to him with rapt attention, when he came 2 hours late for the address.
Marveling at his chaste Hindi, sudden humor and intellectual depth, I went home gushing about what a great man he was. But, alas, those were the days of Congress Party. And it took another 4 elections for BJP to make a serious bid for power. And, when he did come to power, his feet were chained in the mire of coalition politics.
When Vajpayee’s government came in 1998 for 13 months and did the nuke blasts, it was a big surprise and shock to many. Apparently, he had decided from the very first day that it needed to happen.
A decision, that I believe, changed the fortunes of South Asian region in the most positive way. For, until then, a clandestine nuke bazaar was being operated by Pakistan – with sales to Saudis, Iran, North Korea etc – and while China was giving it DIY nuke weapons, US turned a blind eye. Once the blasts happened and the nukes of Pakistan came out, it was impossible to do anything clandestinely or ignore the proliferation happening with full connivance of US, China and the European countries by Pakistan.
Mistakes with Pakistan
For someone who knew Pakistan so well, listen to his amazing poem below, it was strange that he would have agreed to going to Lahore or invite Musharraf to Agra.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee recites his poem on Pakistan
1999 was the toughest year for India in its relationship with Pakistan. In May-June 1999, Musharraf-led Pakistan Army attacked India and India had to fight back with all its might. The Pakistanis were finally beaten back and defeated, but it took a huge toll.
Later on December 24, 1999 the Indian Airlines flight from Kathmandu IC814 was hijacked to Pakistan and then to Kandahar. India had to go through the ignominy of releasing 3 dreaded terrorists – Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, and Masood Azhar in order to get the release of its 175 passengers.
These incidents and then the negative campaign against Modi and BJP after the (without evidence or facts though) Gujarat riots in 2002 hurt BJP badly in the next elections in 2004.
India had to wait another 10 years for BJP to come back with Narendra Modi at the helm with a complete majority in 2014.
Modi and Vajpayee: Different tasks same goal
People often say that Modi is trying to “dismantle the legacy” of Vajpayee in BJP and eulogize Vajpayee only to hit at Modi. When Vajpayee was at the helm, the same people used to demonize him.
Vajpayee did not have the luxury of a ready road or a house built. He was building them. He could not afford to have large dreams. His conduct was that of a father who was trying to save his daughter (India) from demonic aggressors. He could not afford to take the fight head on. His was the war of attrition and intrigue.
He was creating the house which Modi would build into a mansion and a fortress. He was building the road that Modi would use to take India to the next level.
The aim was one – to unleash the Indian mind from the intellectual slavery instilled by colonialism, which continued post-1947 with the dynastic rule. That is why Vajpayee spoke in the UN General Assembly in Hindi. He ended his speech with an unusual exclamation – Jai Jagat, Dhanyavaad – “Hail the planet, thank you”. A sentence that echoed the glorious sentiment of Swami Vivekananda when he started his 1893 speech in Chicago with “Brothers and Sisters…“
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s HIndi speech in UN General Assembly in 1977
India’s future is in its development and in fearless defense as well as leadership in spirituality. From times immemorial, before the invasions happened, prosperity and leadership in both science and spirituality went hand in hand in this nation. The defenses, however, failed it. Not anymore.
What Atal Bihari Vajpayee endured as a caring but firm father, Modi is fighting with the energy of his work. The baton of Bharat has been handed by the architect to his very able and brave successor to take the nation to define the world of tomorrow. Jai Jagat….