What Set Vajpayee Apart From Other BJP Leaders

Atal Bihari Vajpayee - Sakshi Post

G Krishna Mohan Rao

Few people left their stamp on Indian Parliamentary democracy as Atal Bihari Vajpayee did. Both in Parliament and outside, the former prime minister enjoyed unbounded popularity with his innate warmth, natural ease, poetic manner and child-like laughter.

Having covered Vajpayee's public meetings and Parliamentary speeches for over 15 years, the one standout attribute I could always recognise in him was that his approach to politics was never personal. In fact, it transcended political pettiness and was driven by idealism which endeared him to his rivals. As a newspaper rightly put it, he alone had the mettle in him to bring the right to the centrestage of Indian politics. This was evident from the respect and attention he received in the corridors and lobbies of Parliament from party leaders cutting across ideological differences.

His chaste Hindi, replete with scholarly references and meaningful pauses won the hearts of all those who heard him. He is perhaps the last of the great orators of bygone generation of parliamentarians. Such was the mesmerizing power of his speeches that mediamen and fellow MPs alike would rush into the house to listen to him.

He was a darling of the media, in that his speeches were a delight to report tinged as they were with sharp wit and humour. His singular ability to compress the most complex ideas into a simple sentence was an exceptional gift as was the manner in which he reached out to all parties to bring them on board.

It is widely believed that Vajpayee commanded more respect as an opposition leader, also because of his tact and his rapport with some of the giants of the time including Indrajit Gupta of CPI, Somnath Chatterjee of CPM and Janata Dal leaders as Madhu Dandavate, Biju Patnaik, IK Gujral and others.

People often likened him to Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru and like Panditji he had no enemies in politics. He was always referred to as the 'right man in the wrong party'.

Vajpayee holds the unique distinction of being the only non-Congress leader who completed a full term in office as prime minister whereas VP Singh. Chandrashekar, Deve Gowda and IK Gujral had failed on this count. Vajpayee, who is said to have coined the expression coalition dharma, not only reached out to other coalition parties but also accommodated their points of view. No wonder he was seen by all his peers and juniors as the 'Bhishma pitamaha' of coalition politics.

The fact that he got the portrait of Pandit Nehru reinstalled in the parliament after it was removed demonstrates his large-heartedness. When PV Narasimha Rao sent Leader of Opposition, Vajpayee to Geneva to represent India and take on Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, it caused widespread consternation. Vajpayee himself is reported to have said that he would be blamed for any misstep. But national interest came above everything else for him and he carried the day with elan and style. Vajpayee is reported to have characterised Indira Gandhi as Goddess Durga after the 1971 Indo-Pak war which led to the liberation of Bangladesh, though the current BJP disputes this.

The Ayodhya movement and the demolition of Babri masjid saddened him.

A statesman, orator, poet and above all a fine person in the true sense of the term, Vajpayee was a colossus who strode the political stage of Indian politics for more than five decades.

Also Read: Vajpayee Wanted To See India-Pakistan Peace Process Resolved

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