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Epaper Thursday, November 30, 2023


Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A statesman who dreamt of a stronger, inclusive India

December 23, 2022 03:58 PM

It’s Christmas today – the day Jesus Christ was born. His teachings of love, peace, compassion and brotherhood are the lifeline of humanity. I extend my X-Mas greetings and wishes to all, especially our fellow Christian citizens of the country. It is also a great coincidence that our former Prime Minister Bharat Ratna Late Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji was also born on this solemn day in 1924 in the family of a humble school teacher in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. Throughout his life, Vajpayee ji adhered to the ideals of peace, co-existence, compassion, respect for all, equality, justice and fraternity. Poet, writer, journalist, statesman, freedom fighter and a visionary par excellence, Vajpayee ji was blessed with a multifaceted personality. He was a true nationalist and always chose to rise above petty politics for the sake of national interest.

Whether in power or in opposition, he believed in taking along all for the cause of the nation and its people. That is why he was also hailed as Ajatshatru of Indian politics. In a public life of several decades, there was not a single spot on his personality. Integrity, honesty and large heartedness were an integral part of his personality, which always reflected in his writings as a journalist, speeches as a politician and in his approach as an administrator. A Hriday Samrat, indeed! A man of masses, firm in his political convictions, he commanded respect from all political quarters for his vision, views and ideals so integral to our democratic and secular legacy.

Vajpayee ji joined the RSS at a very tender age in 1932 and became a Pracharak in 1947. He formally joined politics by becoming a member of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh in 1951. He was deeply inspired by the thoughts of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyay. He fought the Lok Sabha election for the first time in 1957 and got elected from Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh, and thereafter never looked back. Then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was so much impressed by his lively and enriching debates and discussion in Parliament that he predicted that Vajpayee ji would occupy his seat ‘one day.’ In 1980, he became the founder president of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

As the External Affairs Minister in the Janata Party government in 1977, head of various important Parliamentary Standing Committees and Leader of the Opposition, Vajpayee ji’s journey of life is all about giving his best to the nation. Impressed by his ‘Nation First’ belief, then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao asked Vajpayee ji, who was Leader of Opposition, to lead the delegation to represent India at the UN. His authority on matters of diplomatic and external affairs was fabulous. He left an indelible mark on our foreign policy. In 1996, he became the Prime Minister of the first non-Congress government.

I would like to mention here an incident, which amply reflects how he created a positive impression about our country and the huge respect he used to command among the world leaders. The then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had come to attend the funeral of former Prime Minister Late Shri Rajiv Gandhi ji. He had stayed at Ashoka Hotel in New Delhi. He invited Vajpayee ji and LK Advani ji for a personal meeting. Mr Sharif expressed during conversation that he was meeting him for the first time but knew that his tenure as the External Affairs Minister had seen the most cordial relations between India and Pakistan.

In matters of national interest, Vajpayee ji used to have a non-negotiable approach. When he became the Prime Minister for the first time, he had made up his mind to go for the nuclear test but his government did not last long. However, he did not delay Pokhran II when he became the PM again in 1998. In a meeting with Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Dr R Chidambaram, the decks were cleared for Pokhran II - five nuclear tests of advanced weapons on May 11 and 13, 1998, and joined the comity of nuclear powers. We celebrate May 11 as the National Technology Day.

He was always full of self-confidence in matters of national interest. This was perhaps the only reason that when Pokhran-II was conducted in 1998, he was not rattled despite impending sanctions from the US and other countries. However, he was ever keen to improve relations with Pakistan. He undertook the Lahore Bus Yatra. He also took a bold step to improve ties with Pakistan by inviting Pervez Musharraf to India for the Agra summit. Musharraf betrayed India by attacking us in Kargil but our gallant soldiers under the leadership of Vajpayee ji inflicted a crushing defeat on Pakistan.

As the PM, Vajpayee ji was very particular about infra upgradation, improved road, rail and air connectivity. He initiated big reforms in tune with the spirit of liberalization unveiled by former Prime Minister Rao. Notwithstanding all odds India under his leadership maintained a stable economic growth of eight per cent. By forming a separate Disinvestment Ministry, he brought in required resilience in the functioning of PSUs. The historic decision to launch Sarv Shiksha Abhiyan to make elementary education free for children aged 6-14 years. The ambitious project of Inter-Linking of Rivers was the long-cherished dream of Vajpayee ji. Similarly, he gave a big boost to road infra through the Golden Quadrilateral project and the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojana, thanks to which our villages are today connected with all-weather roads. Through Valmiki Ambedkar Awas Yojana, roofless people were provided with pucca houses.

As his colleague in the party, Parliament and the Union Ministry for many decades, I know him as an erudite politician, a selfless and dedicated leader, who used to articulate the ‘aspirations of the masses’ in true sense. He was blessed with rare qualities to take along people of different political hues and was never ever supportive of any bid to disrupt the proceedings of the House. I was a Member of Parliament when Lal Krishna Advani was arrested in Bihar during his Rath Yatra. Proceedings of Parliament were disturbed for more than a week. Vajpayee ji said in the Parliamentary Party meeting of the BJP that Parliament is a forum for debate and discussion. We should allow discussion. Our political fight should take place outside the Parliament and fight it out by going to the people’s court.

Today Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji is taking the vision of Vajpayee ji to its logical conclusion through good governance so that no one is left behind and the dream of Atma Nirbhar Bharat is realized at the earliest. Like Vajpayee ji, Prime Minister Modi ji is very particular about rooting out corruption, speedy reforms, transparency and accelerated pace of development. Jan-Dhan-Aadhaar-Mobile (JAM) trinity has made a positive difference in people’s lives. During the pandemic, the government helped the affected people through direct benefit transfer (DBT) of Rs 2 lakh crore directly in their accounts. Vajpayee ji was keen to see India as a strong nation economically and militarily, which is being realized by Prime Minister Modi. The best of infra is being created in border areas, while the defence forces are being equipped with state-of-the-art arms and ammunitions, supersonic missiles and multirole fighter aircraft like Rafale.

As we enter into Amrit Kaal of our Independence, the mantra of good governance of Vajpayee ji – which is based on integrity, embracing diversity of caste, religion, gender, ideology and socio-economic status, being judicious and humane in our approach while dealing with the people in general and the underprivileged in particular – will help us build a happier India. As we celebrate his jayanti as the National Good Governance Day, I strongly feel that people, leaders and bureaucrats should have devotion towards the country and respect to society, and work with the spirit that - ‘Our welfare is in the welfare of society as a whole.’ It is with this feeling we should discharge our duties. A strong, healthy and inclusive country will be a true tribute to Vajpayee ji. With clean politics and clean administration, we will be able to make Bharat Vishwa Guru!

(The writer is Governor of Haryana. The views expressed are strictly his personal)
By Shri Bandaru Dattatraya

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