Tag Archives: Atal Bihari Vajpayee

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.

The Rise and Rise of Narendra Modi – Early History

Rajiv Lochan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing the Indian troops, during his visit to Nimu in Ladakh on July 03, 2020.

Riots had happened in Gujarat. Narendra Modi had been appointed Chief Minister just a few months ago. He had been parachuted into the State of which he had no experience because the local party machinery was rift with feuds and corruption, much like their opponents in the Indian National Congress.

The first challenge before Modi was to contain the riots, ensure that justice was done and provide people with the necessary moral support so that they may overcome the trauma of the riot.

Prime Minister Atal Bihar Vajpayee arrived in Gujarat to counsel Modi. ‘Stick to Raj Dharma’ Shri Vajpayee said. Modi of course did whatever he thought was needed to be done. He was no mass leader. Yet, he reached out to people. Talked to them. Convinced them that no injustice would be allowed to go unpunished. And of course he put extraordinary pressure on the government machinery to ensure that justice was done to everyone, that government help reached to all in a fair and just manner.

The big test for Modi came when elections were declared a few months later. At the advise of Modi the BJP decided to launch the election campaign from a far-off tribal village, especially one that had never ever voted for the BJP before. Mr. Vajpayee and Mr. Advani had to be convinced that this was a good idea. For both of them the most important thing was that going to a distant village would be traumatic. The living conditions in these far off tribal villages were really not up to the high standards of comfort that both the ageing leaders had come to expect. Moreover, these forest villages had extreme weather conditions. That was one of the reasons why only a small number of tribals lived here and everyone else migrated to the towns.

At Modi’s insistence, the start of the election campaign from this remote tribal village was tom-tomed as a great event. Not too many journalists, though, bothered to come here to cover what they imagined to be a non-event. One who did come was a strong Congress supporting journalist who ended up in Chandigarh later on. His report in the Times of India gave a glimpse of things to come. After giving a thick description of the gathering in the tribal village, Harish Khare reported that Narendra Modi, the chief minister of Gujarat got up to speak. The crowd listened to him in rapt attention. Then they walked off. Very few waited to hear the Prime Minister of India or the most powerful man in the BJP.

Harish Khare effectively noted, and I think this is the first such note, that maybe Vajpayee and Advani have had their day. The next big leader on the national stage in India is going to be Narendra Modi.

The only ones to take note of Khare’s observations were the top leaders of the Congress party. They began to target Modi. Much to their dislike, despite their best efforts, once Modi did declare his intention to take on national level responsibilities, the people of India, in large masses, came forward to help him become the Prime Minister of India.

Rajiv Lochan is a renowned scholar, historian and columnist

Mortal remains of Atal Bihari Vajpayee consigned to flames; Nation bids tearful farewell

Newsroom24x7 Network

New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s mortal remains were consigned to flames amid chanting of hymns at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the banks of river Yamuna in the capital on Friday (17 August 2018).

The last rites were performed by Vajpayee’s adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya. Also present were her daughter Niharika and members of the bereaved family.

The dignitaries present at the State funeral included President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Ministers Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman, Sushma Swaraj, Harsh Vardhan, several chief ministers, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, veteran BJP leaders LK Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress President Rahul Gandhi.

Among the foreign dignitaries were Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgel Wangchuk, Nepal Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali, Bangladesh Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, and former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah, along with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, walked with the cortege to Smriti Sthal on a sweltering hot and humid August afternoon. There was a sea of mourners who had filled the entire route covered with flowers. The last journey started from the BJP headquarters. The mourners chanted “Atal Ji Amar Rahen” and Jab Tak Suraj Chand Rahega, Atalji ka naam rahega”.

It was Atal Ji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century. His futuristic policies across various sectors touched the lives of each and every citizen of India.

It was due to the perseverance and struggles of Atal Ji that the BJP was built brick by brick. He travelled across the length and breadth of India to spread the BJP’s message, which led to the BJP becoming a strong force in our national polity and in several states. – Narendra Modi, Prime Minister of India

Atal was Renaissance Man of Indian PoliticsRam Nath Kovind, President of India

Demise of Atal Bihari Vajpayee: State Funeral at Smriti Sthal on Friday afternoon

Newsroom24x7 Network

New Delhi: Government of India has declared a half day holiday on Friday (17 August 2018) afternoon in all Central Government offices and CPSUs throughout the country to enable the people to pay homage and attend the State funeral of former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Smriti Sthal in New Delhi.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee – The statesman with a worldview

Lalit Shastri

Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee releasing the book “Political Mirage-50 years after India Became Republic” in June 2000

With the demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today (16 August 2018) comes to an end the era of a great leader and a people’s poet, who was an embodiment of humanity and symbolised clean politics, accountability, humility, a worldview shaped by vast experience and guided by the highest principles, structured by a resolute and uncompromising mind, and an approach woven intrinsically by the warp and weft of peaceful dialogue, extreme respect for democratic values, and the larger good of all beyond narrow borders and as a statesman, he was above all that separates people and puts them on the clash course.

After Mahatma Gandhi’s leading role in the Freedom movement and “Ahimsa” or the path of non-violence that he showed to the whole world and Jawaharlal Nehru’s Panchsheel or the five principles of peaceful co-existence that helped in building the Non-Aligned Movement and moulding the fate and destiny of the third world countries that were emerging out of centuries of colonial rule in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s of the last century and carving their own place in the comity of nations that were highly polarised between the two superpowers the US and the erstwhile USSR along with their allies, India got a towering leader in Atal Bihari Vajpayee. What the world should learn from Atal Bihari Vajpayee is his spirit of accommodation, mutual respect and the over-riding yearning for brotherly and friendly relations with all.

When the entire world is facing the huge threat of terrorism, violence, large-scale radicalisation, India will be playing a great tribute to the departed leader by spreading his message across the world for solving the problems that now loom large in different parts of the world.

I vividly recall Atal Bihari’s Vajpayee’s thrust during electioneering for the 2004 Lok Sabha election after leading a stable government since 1999. At an election rally at Chindwara in the central Indian State of Madhya Pradesh, the home turf of present Madhya Pradesh Congress President and former Union Minister Kamal Nath, he had kept away from all hype, shunned the use of harsh words that are unbecoming of any great leader and had urged the people to “honestly” judge his Government’s performance at the Centre over the last six-year period. “Is it not true that the overall atmosphere in the country is good,” he had asked while emphasising that the country’s economic condition had vastly improved under his regime.

During his election speeches in 2004, he had laid special emphasis on the need to build a peaceful atmosphere both within the country as well as on the borders.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee had done everything to build friendship with Pakistan. Addressing voters in the 2004 election that brought the Congress party back to power, he had told the people, “While they (Pakistanis) wanted to talk about Kashmir, we said let there be trade and resumption of cricket and flights between the two countries.” In his capacity as Prime Minister he never missed any opportunity to caution the people against political parties that were trying to spread misinformation regarding his continued efforts to build friendly relations with Pakistan.

At his election rally in the heart of India in 2004, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had the option to become a rabble-rouser or to speak like a statesman. Obviously he was not the one to deviate from his path for the sake of votes and he chose to convey the message that both India and Pakistan have to fight the scourge of poverty, hunger and unemployment. Hence why spend on weapons and arsenals when there can be peace through bilateral talks.

Imran Khan, who has emerged victorious in neighburing Pakistan and is about to be sworn-in as Prime Minister spoke with the same spirit during his maiden address to the people after the election results were announced. He has the opportunity to build peace with India and he can create history, if he chooses to follow the path shown by Atal Bihari Vajpayee who in his capacity as Prime Minister had remained undeterred by the Kargil war inflicted upon India by Pakistan in 1999 and the failed 2001 Agra Summit. The Delhi-Lahore Bus, which was started in early 1999 did not come to a halt even by Kargil but was stopped only after the 2001 attack on Parliament.

“The Enabler Narendra Modi: Breaking Stereotypes”

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It has been a year since Narendra Modi came to power after leading the Bharatiya Janata Party to a landslide victory in the 2014 parliamentary election.

Modi in a few months after his inauguration shut down the Planning Commission, which by default subverted the idea of India being a federal democracy. All chief ministers as a matter of routine would line up each year to get their annual plan approved by the Planning Commission. Modi has in place inaugurated NITI Aayog wherein the chief ministers head sub-groups on various subjects. But most importantly Modi assured from the ramparts of the Red Fort, that he would ‘neither take bribe nor allow others to do the same (naa khaaoonga, naa khane doonga)’. No Prime Minister before him acknowledged the cancer of corruption and owned up responsibility to crush it down. A year has passed by since the inauguration of Modi and the economy has resumed its journey on the upward trajectory, but the real-estate prices in Delhi and satellite towns around have slumped by at least 20 per cent. The real-estate in Delhi zone thrived because the black money was in ample supply. The tap appears to have been turned off and there is tangible effect on the grounds.

ENABLER NARENDRA MODIManish Anand in his book: “THE ENABLER NARENDRA MODI: BREAKING STEREOTYPES” describes Modi as an Emperor of Indian democracy. The author prefers not to draw a parallel but goes on to emphasise that Modi has surpassed the stature of Indira Gandhi of 1971 when she was India’s most powerful leader and had unveiled a single party rule in the country. Modi’s position is both ominous and providential, he says adding his position could be ominous because he may throttle dissent and cause serious damage to Indian democracy. At the same time it could also be providential because he can guide India onto a new path and liberate the shackled potential of the country.

In the preface, Modi has been described as “arguably” India’s first non-Congress Prime Minister. To drive home the point Manish says there were seven Prime Ministers of India, who headed non-Congress governments. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee of BJP was Prime Minister for about six years. Yet, Modi is the first non-Congress Prime Minister in the true sense. Congress in India is not just a political party but a culture. And that culture was seeded deep into Indian democracy by Indira Gandhi. Her stature was such in her prime time that she ensured Constitution Amendment (42nd) to give India the character of a welfare state. All her successors, barring Modi, bore her imprints in their statecraft.

Carrying forward the argument Manish underscores how PV Narsimha Rao, ably assisted by his Finance Minister Manmohan Singh, sought to force open the window to the world, which was further carried forward by Vajpayee, they could not lay their hands on a formidable electoral template. Both were consequently rejected by the people. Both suffered from contradictions. They wanted to write new chapters in Indian economy and polity yet could not shun the ideological imprints of Indira Gandhi fully. Rao was a Congress man, but had vision to think beyond the Nehru-Gandhi bank of party ideas. Vajpayee was an RSS man, but had co-opted socialists, who were non-Congressmen for just namesake. Vajpayee was a minister in the Morarji Desai Cabinet. The old man was a hardcore Congress man and a rival of Indira Gandhi in her party. Vajpayee propped up VP Singh as Prime Minister also with the support of the Left parties. VP Singh had spent his life in the Congress and quit the party to head the Janata Party, which was essentially a loose confederation of provincial caste chieftains. Vajpayaee in his thoughts was centrist, with little leaning to the right.

In this backdrop, Manish goes on to examine the Congress party and what it stands for. Congress essentially is a political culture wherein the power of decision making is centralized. Popularly it is called a ‘High Command’ culture. This bears strong imprints in the statecraft. Even though India is a Union of states, with much thrust on federalism, Indian statecraft essentially is of centralized planning and decision making. The Centre decides what the states should do. The Centre decides how much money states should spend and under what heads. The Centre decides what laws states should have.

The author has illustrated the point vis-a-vis the Congress by drawing attention to the Indian Parliament enacting a law on acquisition of land in 2013, which was actually a political legislation thrust upon the government due to Rahul Gandhi’s obsession to do the politics of land. Land is a state subject and all state governments have their own respective policies or laws on acquisition of land. Then what was the need for the Centre to enact a law on land and whose amendments Modi is desperately seeking, because he believes it has forced a lock-down on development. If not for Rahul Gandhi ambushing Bhatta-Parsaul to throw his weight behind arguably relatively rich farmers of western Uttar Pradesh, India may have continued with the British time law on acquisition of land. The basic idea is that the Centre essentially lacks trust in state governments to be fair in dealing with its people. And that must sound ludicrous, because the state governments have more connect with the people than the state.

Carrying forward the argument, Manish says Modi is the first non-Congress Prime Minister because he has not been touched by the ideology and culture of the grand old party. Because he was chief minister of Gujarat for about 12 years with strong majority in the state Assembly. He never needed to bend even little to allow Congress to cast its imprints on him. Congress and New Delhi are a lot similar, because they too have the same culture.

The book, by Manish, who is a seasoned journalist covering the political beat for The Asian Age in Delhi, is a treatise on Indian politics and an in-depth analysis of the political philosophy and style of working of Prime Minister Modi and what sets him apart from his predecessors when it comes to vision and setting the agenda for the nation.