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Iconic Vajpayee commands respect from his most bitter critique

By Vinod
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    New Delhi, Aug 16: Lets go back to the debate on the Presidential speech at Parliament session in February 2018, there was heated argument between the ruling BJP and Opposition Congress. With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah very much present in their respective seats in the House, there was some sudden altercation between former parliamentary affairs minister Ghulam Nabi Azad and minister of state for parliamentary affairs Vijay Goal and the answer by Azad tells the real iconic character of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

    Atal Bihari Vajpayee

    During Ghulam Nabi Azad's speech on the 'motion of thanks to the President's address', Goel stood up to object somethin so Azad advised him that a minister managing parliamentary affairs shouldn't indulge in such practice. He recalled an occasion when former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee sent his newly appointed parliamentary affairs minister Madan Lal Khurana to Azad to pick up a lesson or two on how to run the ministry and protect the interest of Opposition as Azad was a parliamentary affairs minister during PV Narasimha Rao government.

    Also Read | Vajpayee a leader from among them for the party workers

    Iconic Atal Bihari Vajpayee is described as moderate leader of the BJP despite writing a poem like Hindu Tan Man, Hindu Jivan, Rag-Rag Hindu Mera Parichay (Hindu Sole, body, Hindu life, every bit of my identity a Hindu) His acceptability as a charismatic was nothing less than a charisma which was across part line. It was his leadership that has brought the saffron party to the centrestage of Indian politics when the Congress started declining in late 90s.

    Unmatched orator who is remembered for taking bold initiatives. His initiative to bridge differences in India and Pakistan was a unique one who is lauded as a statesman politician. But his actions had gone way ahead of his party's political agenda. So sometimes he was said to have grown bigger than his political party.

    Right-wing political outfit which was considered to be untouchable for some that Vajpayee is part of, it was his careen that brought in 1998 new allies to BJP, especially in the aftermath of demolition of the disputed shrine at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh in 1992.

    Also Read | Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat: Understanding Vajpayee's Kashmir doctrine

    He was not at all bothered about being called a mask of the RSS, he was undeterred by party workers of late accusing him of embarking on a misdirected visit to Pakistan in 1999, Vajpayee visited Lahore aboard a bus. His diplomatic skills were always appreciated and it was also in the case of Indo-Pak relation when it was called a dawn of a new era. But Vajpayee was equally tough on Pakistan army's a covert operation into Kargil where in a limited conflict Pakistan was defeated.

    His first Premiership lasted just for 13 days in 1996 while seconded stint ended in 13 months in 1998 after AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa withdrew support from the governemtn. However, he was reelected in 1999 at the head of a more stable coalition that lasted its full term.

    A widely respected leader in India and abroad, Vajpayee's 1998-99 tenure as prime minister was characterised as one year of courage of conviction. A series of successive nuclear tests at Pokhran happened during this time in May 1998.

    He was genuinely interested to improve relations with Pakistan and seeds were sown when he was Foreign Minister in the Morarji Desai Government. But after Lahore peace overtures failed to carry forward, another initiative was the historic Agra summit with General Pervez Musharraf in 2001 but that too failed.

    His secular credential were at stake when Babri mosq was demolished in 1992 and he was Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha. His trusted lieutenants like L K Advani and MM Joshi supported the demolition but Vajpayee condemned it.

    He became a Member of Parliament for the first time in 1957. He started out as a communist but shed that for membership in the RSS, an organization propounding Hindutva.

    Also Read | Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee's best speeches

    As a political activist, Vajpayee became a close follower and aide to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, founder of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), BJP's predecessor. Vajpayee was at Mookerjee's side when he went on a fast-unto-death in Kashmir in 1953, to protest against the system of carrying a permit for entering the state and the inferior treatment of Indian citizens visiting Kashmir, as also the special treatment accorded to Kashmir because it had a Muslim majority.

    Mookerjee's fast and protest ended the identity card requirement, and hastened the integration of Kashmir into the Indian Union. But Mookherjee died in mysterious circumstance in Kashmir, but these events proved to be watershed moment for Vajpayee. Taking the baton from Mookerjee, he won his first election to Parliament in 1957. In spite of his youth, he soon became a respected voice in the opposition - one of reason and intelligence.

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