Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former prime minister of India and one of the country’s most respected leaders, breathed his last on Thursday at Delhi's AIIMS hospital. With Vajpayee’s passing away, an era of Indian politics ended. The charismatic leader was the first non-Congress politician to complete a five-year tenure as Prime Minister of India. He was lauded as a statesman politician whose acceptability across the party lines brought the once untouchable, the BJP to the centre stage of politics in the late 90s.
Vajpayee was an orator par excellence, who never hesitated in taking bold decisions. His “Insaniyat (Humanity), Jamhuriyat (Democracy) and Kashmiriyat (Identity of the people of Kashmir)” doctrine on Kashmir paved the way of peace in the Valley.
Vajpayee was the leader, who ended BJP’s political untouchability due to its extreme rightist leanings and the Babari Masjid demolition and brought new allies to the BJP’s kitty. Despite being an RSS loyalist, Vajpayee never compromised with the country’s social harmony and even asked Narendra Modi, the then Gujarat PM, to “follow his Rajdharma” during the 2002 riots.
Regarded as one of the most shrewd politicians of the country, Vajpayee took an extremely bold decision to visit Pakistan in 1999 to usher in a new era in India-Pakistan bilateral ties. Pakistan, however, backstabbed and sent its troops into Kargil that led to a war between the countries.
Vajpayee was elected as the prime minister of India thrice. He first became the PM in 1996. However, his minority government could only last for 13 days due to lack of majority. He returned to power in 1998 but his 13-month-old government collapsed after AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa pulled out her support from the coalition. He was again re-elected as PM in 1999 and became the first non-Congress leader to complete his full five-year tenure as PM.
Unlike Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who talks about a Congress-free nation, Vajpayee, a Bharat Ratna awardee respected Opposition leaders and knew the importance of the Opposition in a democracy.
After the end of 30-year Congress rule in 1977, Vajpayee became the foreign minister. When he entered his new office, he noticed that a portrait of Nehru was missing from its place.
He asked his secretary where the portrait had gone. His secretary told him that Nehru's portrait was removed after the new government came to power. Vajpayee, who had many reasons to dislike Nehru, however, directed the secretary to reinstate the portrait in his office.
Apart from being a shrewd politician, Vajpayee was also a passionate poet of repute. His poetry was full of passion and patriotism and inspired thousands.
Vajpayee described life and death through his poetry -- “The cycle of being and not being… Will continue till eternity… So will our illusion, That we are, we will be.”
Another famous poetry – “Har Nahi Manunga, Raar Nahi Thanunga (Will never accept defeat, will never have enmity)” is often recited by politicians to motivate party workers.
It’s dark in the middle of the day
The sun is defeated by its shadow
Squeeze the oil from your soul
and light the wick,
Come let’s light a lamp again! ~ Atal Bihar Vajpayee (25 December 1924 – 16 August 1924)