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BJP Missing Atalji

July 28, 2010

The name of the man defines him – Atal which could be translated from Hindi as ‘one who would not budge’. Yes, Atal Bihari Vajpayee is one of those personalities on the Indian political landscape, who have left an indelible impression that will be there for times to come. As the National Democratic Alliance headed by the Bharatiya Janata Party moves an adjournment motion followed by a head count in the Lok Sabha under the leadership of Sushma Swaraj, many look back and wonder as to what Atalji would have done had he been around. What would the man have done? Well, he would have demolished the Treasury Benches with one witty quip, one startling anecdote and one touching reference, that would have been quoted for years to come. The poet in him, the sensitive side of him never left him and the difference between Atalji and others was that first and foremost he was a sensitive human being and then anything else. His basic humane nature was what set him apart. His verbosity giving words to what moved him in a way, only a poet can, and he was a very fine poet.

There are other sensitive, humane politicians, but what was different about Atal Bihari Vajpayee was that he was never on the extreme fringe of any debate. He had his values and he stoutly defended his right to air his views. Yet, he was magnanimous enough to pat the backs of his worst critics, if he thought that what they were doing was right. He did not hesitate to congratulate Indira Gandhi when under her leadership India went in for first nuclear tests in 1974, though he bitterly opposed her style of functioning and was worried at the rising prices and increasing corruption and poverty in the country. Under his leadership, the country went in for second nuclear tests in 1998, but the scathing attack by the Congress and the Left who were in the opposition at that time gave the international community ammunition enough to impose sanctions on India. Atalji never expected such furor over the nuclear tests when India was a declared nuclear weapons state.

The biggest achievement of Atal Bihari Vajpayee was that he was acceptable even to his adversaries. Running a coalition government of more than 15 parties was no mean achievement. His acceptability was such that parties and regional leaders accepted his leadership as a matter of course. I agree that even the present Manmohan Singh government is a coalition and power has its own gravity which attracts all and sundry, but even so for a non-Congress led coalition to run successfully from 1998 to 2004 was quite an achievement. Here I would like to mention the role played by his bhakts like Late Pramod Mahajan who helped cobble the coalition. But it still was the persona of AB Vajpayee that was the decisive factor in all these diverse parties coming together. Even his worst critics would restrain themselves before launching a tirade against Atalji. Such self professed Socialists as Chandra Shekhar called him Guruji in deference.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Let us not forget that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was from the rightist bandwagon – the much criticized and almost ostracized political outfit that is a political untouchable for most. Coming from the rightist leaning BJP, to manage such wide acceptability was the charisma of the man. His oratory legendry and his pauses a time for the audience to reflect on what the man had said and could possibly further say. The strength in the House invariably increased when it was known that Atalji was about to speak in the parliament. He was a captivating speaker, not only because of his facility with words but also because of the substance of his speeches. He was heard because he talked about values, because he could look at things holistically. The author had the good fortune of listening to him in one of his meeting and the persona of the man was such that when he entered the hall, a more than three thousand strong audience just stood up spontaneously in reverence to the man. His one liner brought the house down, yet the message went to the lowliest and the uneducated. He struck a chord with all and sundry. His compassion came through in his speeches and he was unorthodox in that he was never a votary of the caste system.

Was he a rightist? Well, he could not be anything else. He was one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh and saw Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya as his idols. He was by the side of Mookerjee when he breathed his last. Atalji was also the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party which he founded with his friends L.K. Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. He was the first president of the BJP. He was an unabashed rightist but not of the extreme kind and accepted that the minorities had their rights in secular India. His compassion transcended caste, creed and religion. Yet he was never apologetic about his staunch RSS moorings. He also had the persona to develop a healthy relationship with the Sangh while not allowing them to dictate terms. Post Atalji, the Sangh has almost overtaken the BJP and the appointment of Nitin Gadkari was thrust upon the party from Nagpur. Atalji would have never allowed such blatant interference in the party. One could find Atalji at shakhas, yet when he spoke at these gatherings his innate pluralism never betrayed him and he remained an iconoclast in a gathering of conformists to the rightist ‘cause’.

His relationship with Advaniji is a matter of much conjecture. Advaniji, to his credit always considered Atalji his ‘leader’, though in age he was his senior. The relations between the two leaders of BJP was not always a smooth one, but both had the sagacity and the good sense to set aside their differences when it came to what was good for the party. Their mutual respect for one another was such that they did not tolerate any nonsense from within or outside the party against one another. They were and are best of friends and Atalji would not set aside Advani’s views in matters of policy. In many ways it can be said that it was Advani’s rathyatra that catapulted the BJP and Atalji to power. Atalji’s liberalism and Advani’s strong rightist image was a good foil to attract all and sundry to party’s ideology. Many Muslims gravitated to the party because of Atalji’s persona. The most telling achievement of Atal-Advani duo was that they gave the Indian voters a plausible choice away from the Congress.

Atalji is indisposed. He has retired from politics. Even now, the respect for the man is such that Jaswant Singh made it a point to meet him after he was expelled from the party. Jaswant Singh, I understand is a regular visitor at Atalji’s place even now. The man is being sorely missed by the BJP. One can only imagine what magic he would have weaved at this crucial time and juncture when the country is reeling under double digit inflation, terrorism has become more real post 26/11 and the Congress is attacking the BJP governments all guns blazing, when they jailed Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah. By all accounts, had Atalji been there the Congress would not have dared make such audacious attack on the BJP. But then, there will always be only one Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Note: As I finish writing this, news is that the Speaker Ms. Miera Kumar has disallowed a debate under the adjournment motion. The decision of the Speaker  is above board as it is not in the fairness of things that the party (in this case, coalition) in power proves its majority on the floor of the House every other day. This debate under adjournment motion may have been admissible technically but tradition in the Westminster model does not expect the government in power to be asked to prove majority at the drop of a hat. If the Opposition was so keen to have a show of strength, they should have moved a ‘no-confidence motion’, which they would not because they just do not have the numbers. If the NDA was trying to prove that there is a unanimity among various parties on the issue of price rise, then that is a given. They should go ahead and debate the matter in the House and refrain from stalling the normal functioning of the House.

Update 29.07.2010: While the Speaker was right when she rejected the Adjournment Motion, the Opposition’s request to annul the Question Hour and allow a debate on price rise was a legitimate one. Today’s adjournment of the House without any work done is solely because of the obduracy of Ms. Meira Kumar. The catch however was that under rule 184 also there will be a voting and the UPA does not want that. The House therefore remains in suspension.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. August 22, 2010 6:02 am

    Nice website!!

  2. katyayni permalink
    April 9, 2012 6:22 pm

    good effort in the name of sri atal ji….

  3. sharma24 permalink*
    July 28, 2010 12:26 pm

    Thanks!!

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