Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The towering statesman

Lalit Shastri

Remembering the great statesman, Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji, on his birth Anniversary. He had launched my book “The Political Mirage – 50 years after India became Republic” at his official residence when he was Prime Minister on 16 June 2000.

There’s a story behind the book launch ceremony. When my book was ready and I had received a rush copy from the printer, I sent it to the PMO with a covering note requesting the Prime Minister to release it. After a few days, I received a response from Kanchan Gupta, a journalist who was at that time the Press Advisor to the PM. He returned the book with the message that the PM is very busy and has no time to release my book. This did not deter me and immediately I picked up the phone and dialled the national BJP President late Kushabhau Thakreji’s office in Delhi. His PA told me that he had just left office and was about to get into his car. I asked him to rush and tell him that Lalit Shastri is on phone and wants to talk something urgent. After a short while Thakreji was at the other end saying: “Bolo Lalit (tell me Lalit). When I told him about my book, which was a collection of my articles published in The Hindu (during the decade of 90s) on transparency, corruption and poor governance during Digvijay rule in MP and the shabby response I had got from Kanchan Gupta, he said I had called at the right time as he was leaving for a meeting with the PM at his official residence. He told me that he would be taking up the matter with Shri Atalji. After a few days, I got a call from the head of Intelligence Bureau in Bhopal telling me that Vajpayeeji would be releasing my book at a special function to be organised at the Bhopal airport during his official visit to the State capital two days later. On the D-day, when the stage was set and people had started gethering at the airport to receive the Pime Minister, news came that Atalji had not taken off from Delhi as he was not well and his programmes for that day had been cancelled. Later when I contacted the IB, they told me that the PM’s programmes, once they get cancelled, automatically do not get rescheduled. For that a fresh request has to be made. I was left wondering, should I start all over again but to my pleasant surprise, only a few days later, I received a message, this time directly from the PMO, telling me that Vajpayeeji would be releasing my book at a special function at his residence on 16 June, 2000. I salute the great statesman.

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