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The Vajpayee I knew: Poet statesman and a commander who was not authoritative

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New Delhi, Aug 17: Bharat Ratna, Atal Bihari Vajpayee breathed his last on August 16 at 5.05 pm in New Delhi. As the nation mourns the death of their beloved leader, several officers who have worked with him recall the kind of person he was and how he handled several issues.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Amar Bhushan, the former special secretary of the Research and Analysis Wing speaks with OneIndia about Vajpayee, the Pokhran incident and also what he was on a personal level.

" One of the greatest qualities about Vajpayee was that he was a consensus man. A great poet, he was filled with compassion. I would call him a statesman because he took everyone along."

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" Whenever I would meet him on a personal level, he would make you sit with him, recite poems. He was jovial, friendly in personal groups and never withdrawn," Bhushan recalls.
Bhushan recalls one Public Accounts Committee meeting, which he was officially part of.

There was a discussion on operational costs and an MP called Shahbuddin had sought for an explanation. He was upset with the budgetary hike and sought for an explanation.

Vajpayee who was present at that meeting as Prime Minister, handled the situation in a very calm manner. " You have been a foreign service officer. Let us not get involved in these things. There are certain things we must gloss over," Vajpayee said.

The discussion came to an end and none disputed him, recounts Amar Bhushan. No body could dispute him says Bhushan while adding that Vajpayee was a commander who was not authoritative. None could argue with him, not because he was autocratic or he would snub people. He commanded such authority that none could disobey him, Bhushan also recounts.

When I would meet him personally, he would always make me feel comfortable in his company. He would always have a smile on his face. I recollect Vajpayee as a poet statesman, says Bhushan. I only wish there was a social media at that time. Had it been there, he would have returned to power in 2004.

The Pokhran tests:

Bhushan who was with the Research and Analysis Wing at the time of the Pokhran tests said that it was a very essential exercise. We needed a test to find out the capacity. There were lot of pressure from the scientific community. Conducting a test in the lab is very different when compared to doing it in the open.

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It was a very tough period for all of us and we faced immense problems. Scientists wanted to find out the capability and the effectiveness of what they had. The first test was very crude and since then our scientists had moved ahead a lot.

Vajpayee stood like a rock all through this period. We were all aware that the sanctions would come. However the test had to be done as it was extremely crucial says Bhushan.

Following the tests, a lot suffered. The defence, intelligence and commerce suffered as a result of these sanctions. Vajpayee found a way through all this. Slowly and gradually we got around the United States.

Following the tests, Pakistan too tested a few days later. There was palpable tension in the region and the world was concerned about it. However Vajpayee handled the situation well and even announced a nuclear doctrine for public consumption in 1999. He took steps for greater engagement with China and Pakistan.

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