Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Prime Minister whose achievements could not be discussed in public.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the national hero whose heroism is yet to be made public:

The world is fighting a war and today is second death anniversary of Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The world does not know who started this war but we do know that our first concern is Corona Virus and second is to protect our borders. Unless you are born in this millennial or little earlier, you may not have noticed the difference. Take it from me that the stance of India is different from what it used to be. Especially from the time of Kargil war in 1999. So what changed and what Atal Bihari Vajpayee has to do with it? Everything.

If we set aside rhetoric, three leaders actually gave a direction to India. Sardar Patel set the India free from possible disintegration as was planned by British by handing over a continent size country in the hands of about 600 rules without any paramount ruler. His role is acknowledged. The second leader is 9th Prime Minister of India (between 21 June 1991 – 16 May 1996) P. V. Narasimha Rao (or Pamulaparthi Venkata Narasimha Rao) who unleashed the economic power by unyoking India’s economy from the Nehruvian Licency Raj of crony capitalism and led India to market economy. The third leader is Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a soft spoken and a poet, who did what no one could have expected of him and most of his policies are under the wraps as it is a matter o state secret. He ushered India on the path of becoming a hard military power. Of course he laid foundation of victory of BJP, in a way that nobody noticed it. This is going to be multi part article, so bear with me. It will take a few days to explain all matters. First a short biography as per website of BJP:

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the overview:

Born on December 25, 1924, in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh to Shri Krishna Bihari Vajpayee and Smt. Krishna Devi, Shri Vajpayee brings with him a long parliamentary experience spanning over four decades.

Educated at Victoria College (now Laxmibai College), Gwalior and DAV College, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, Shri Vajpayee holds an M.A (Political Science) degree and has many literary, artistic and scientific accomplishments to his credit. He edited Rashtradharma (a Hindi monthly), Panchjanya (a Hindi weekly) and the dailies Swadesh and Veer Arjun. His published works include “Meri Sansadiya Yatra” (in four volumes), “Meri Ikkyavan Kavitayen”, “Sankalp Kaal”, “Shakti-se-Shanti”, “Four Decades in Parliament” (speeches in three volumes), 1957-95, “Lok Sabha Mein Atalji” (a collection of speeches), Mrityu Ya Hatya”, “Amar Balidan”, “Kaidi Kaviraj Ki Kundalian” (a collection of poems written in jail during Emergency), “New Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy” (a collection of speeches delivered as External Affairs Minister during 1977-79), “Jan Sangh Aur Mussalman”, “Sansad Mein Teen Dashak” (Hindi) (speeches in Parliament, 1957-1992, three volumes) and “Amar Aag Hai” (a collection of poems, 1994).

Career in Parliament:

Vajpayee was member of the Bhartiya Jan Sangh which Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee had founded in 1951. Vajpaee as president of the Jan Sangh decided to merge it with Janta Party in 1977 to fight dictatorial Indira Gandhi. After the Janta Government fell in 1980, he separated and founded Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) in 1980. In 1984 BJP fought the elections alone and it had just two members in Parliament. He was severely punished in 1980 and 1984 by public for joining/merging Jan Sangh with Janta Party in 1977. Eventually in 1996 he became Prime Minister of India for 13 days. After fresh polls in 1998 Vajpayee became Prime Minister for 11 months after which his Government fell for just one short vote. In 1999 itself fresh polls were held and Vajpayee became Prime Minister for the third time till 2004. He was conferred India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in 2015.

He had been a Member of Parliament since 1957. He was elected to the 5th, 6th and 7th Lok Sabha and again to the 10th, 11th 12th and 13th Lok Sabha and to Rajya Sabha in 1962 and 1986. In 2004, he was elected to Parliament from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh for the five times consecutively. He is the only parliamentarian elected from four different States at different times – UP, Gujarat, MP and Delhi. His legacy as the Prime Minister is a rich one that is remembered and cherished even a decade after his term ended. It included the Pokhran nuclear tests, astute and wise economic policies that laid the foundations of the longest period of sustained growth in independent Indian history, massive infrastructure projects such as those related to development of national highways and the Golden Quadrilateral. Few Indian Prime Ministers have left such a dramatic impact on society.

Prime Minister Vajpayee

Vajpayee served three terms as the Prime Minister of India, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, then for a period of 13 months from 1998 to 1999. In 1999 general elections BJP-led NDA won 303 seats out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha securing a comfortable and stable majority. On 13 October 1999, Sri Vajpayee Ji took oath as Prime Minister of India for the third time. A member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he was the first Indian prime minister not of the Indian National Congress to serve a full term in office. Respecting elections result of 2004, he demitted office and handed over the reigns of office to incumbant Manmohan Singh.

Last days of Vajpayee and death in 2018

Vajpayee retired from active politics in 2009 due to health reasons.On 11 June 2018, Vajpayee was admitted to AIIMS in critical condition following a kidney infection. News flashed across the TV screen Prime Minister visiting All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) at night. It was independence day being 15 August of 2018 and people were resting after a day full of merriment. Most perhaps missed out. But the next day morning it was all across News Channels that the health of former Prime Minister of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was admitted in AIIMS for over one month, had become critical. Whole day of 16th August, all the TV channels, irrespective of its leaning, was discussing his health and his past speeches and actions. The Chief Ministers and leaders of various parties started pouring in to New Delhi. Awaiting next news bulletin from hospital took whole day. It was apparent that end of life was near but not his legacy. Announcement of his passing away came at 1705 hrs.

Prime Minister with cabinet members walking in the funeral of Vajpayee.

Vajpayee was laid to rest next day with full State honours including gun salute. As his body was carried on a gun carriage from the office of BJP, in New Delhi to his final resting place about at Raj Ghat near to the memorial of Gandhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his entire cabinet and Most of the Chief Ministers from BJP ruled states (perhaps 23) walked 4.5 kilometers behind the carriage in a typical traditional family funeral in India. It was a security nightmare for the security agencies, had ever faced anywhere in the world.

Vajpayee had demited the office 14 years earlier and was out of public glare yet India reacted to Vajpayee’s death with grief and thousands of tributes poured in through social media platforms. Thousands of people paid their respects during his funeral procession. A seven-day state mourning was announced by the central government throughout India. The national flag flew half-mast during this period.

The tenure of Prime Minister Vajpayee was no bed of roses. He faced unprecedented crises and instead of short term measures he took bold steps which molded Indi into a hard state. It is said

Too many major crises surfaced in the tenure of Vajpayee. First was Indian Airlines Flight IC 814 hijacking by Talibani terrorists from Nepal. Second was Kargil war thrust upon by Pakistan during which USA refused to share GPS coordinate to enable the India to launch air attack. Another was attack of terrorists on Parliament. On December 13, 2001, a group of masked, armed men with fake IDs stormed the Parliament building in Delhi. The terrorists managed to kill several security guards, but the building was sealed off swiftly and security forces cornered and killed the men, who were later proven to be Pakistan nationals. Apparently India had too many enemies and it was unprepared.

Great nations are great not just because of their economy but also because of their strength to handle crises and effective survival of crises.

Today not only there is no detailed biography of his actions as Prime Minister but also there is no portrait of Atal Bihari available on the website of BJP. It is sad, how he has been forgotten or consigned to history. The picture used above is tweaked from background in the above website. No picture is available under caption ‘Leaders‘.

Wait for Part 2 tomorrow.

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