India is the largest democracy in the world. Throughout its democratic history, it has witnessed several politicians rising to power before going downhill. Our countrymen have been fortunate enough to see great leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, P.V Narsimha Rao, and Indira Gandhi taking up the podium and setting up vivid examples of leadership and diplomacy for the generations to come. Our country represents a classic example of unity in diversity, it exemplifies different flavours in almost every aspect of our lives, Politics being one of them. We have produced leaders exhibiting varied styles and building a connect with varied people of our country. And at the same time, the race to reach the pinnacle of power had also corrupted some of those leaders beyond redemption. Today, we are a part of a political system which lacks mutual respect for each other. We see Parliamentary sessions succumbing to unproductivity owing to clashes between ideologies and people driven by the utmost motive of demeaning each other. Where does a leader like ‘Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’ fit in in this landscape? What made him stand out from the rest?
Born to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee on 25th December 1924 in Gwalior, Atal Bihari Vajpayee did his schooling from Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Gwalior and later went on to complete his graduation from Laxmi Bai College, Gwalior. He then pursued his Masters of Arts in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur, where he was awarded a first-class degree. A revolutionary nationalist at heart, at a tender age of 16, he was already working as an active member of RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh) and had earned the honour of being a freedom fighter when he was jailed for participating in ‘Quit India movement’. The urge for public service and uplifting our nation drove him throughout his life. From being one of the founding members of ‘Bhartiya Jan Sangh’ to organizing it into the first truly national party, ‘Bhartiya Janta Party’, formed in independent India, he exhibited strength, proactivity and responsiveness to various national and state-level issues, especially in the case of J&K protests against separate permits for other citizens. His extraordinary organizational and oratorical skills won the hearts of masses. His aptly articulated and poetic way of addressing public sessions soon started bearing fruits. In 1957, he was elected as a member of Lok Sabha from Balrampur. There, his oratorical skills so impressed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he predicted that Vajpayee would someday become India’s Prime Minister. He served as an MP (Member of Parliament) for 47 years thereafter, as he was elected 10 times for Lok Sabha and 2 times for Rajya Sabha. As his political career progressed, Atalji became a name synonymous with Integrity, Cohesiveness, Patience and Cooperation. He was an inspiration for many and he strongly upheld our nationalistic identity on international platforms. India had just started gaining momentum, when as a ‘Minister of External Affairs’, he addressed the UN General assembly in Hindi. It showed the love he had for his motherland and his capability to think differently to create a distinct national identity.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as the Prime Minister of India between 1996 and 2004 in three non-consecutive terms. Though the initial terms were comparatively unstable, his firm decision-making and his ability to build consensus amongst everyone brought about a lot of key changes at that time. His approach to decision-making included seeking considerations from every political front to arrive at a consensus. He strongly believed that such inclusion was paramount in achieving desired effectiveness for the government policies to work. His able governance proved several economic and political pundits wrong, who suggested that a democracy could never achieve a very high GDP growth rate since India grew at around 6-7% at that time owing to the liberal reforms in various sectors. While we as a nation had started dreaming of becoming a superpower, Atalji consolidated our position in terms of national security as well when he overcame the hesitation of our nation, the resistance of the world and threat of isolation to make India a nuclear weapons power post the second Pokharan range tests. Amid all these developments, he showed contrasting gumptions when he went an extra mile to make Indo-Pak relations better post Kargil war. Foreign relations, especially with USA and China, were never better. He widely advocated World Peace and Cooperation. As he himself once said, “Gun can solve no problem; brotherhood can. Issues can be resolved if we move forward guided by the three principles of Insaniyat, Jamhooriyat and Kashmiriyat.” During his Prime Ministership, India witnessed a golden era of transformation and positivity while everything worked in tandem in an otherwise difficult-to-manage coalition government. It was the magic of Atalji working wonders for the nation.
We have not only lost an excellent politician, but a diplomat, journalist, poet, and in a true sense, a Bharat Ratna. A gem whose shine would enlighten us forever in our path for development. He taught everyone the politics of consensus and not confrontation. He taught us how to accommodate everyone’s opinion while putting forth your own ideologies and beliefs. He was often termed as ‘Bhishm Pitamah’ of Indian politics as he was equally respected and liked by either political fronts. I still remember humming to the tune of the song “School chale hum…” during my childhood. Today it feels different. I am sure his spirit will continue to guide us as we progress to become the greatest nation in this world.
Author: Prateek Gupta
PGPM, Class of 2019, Great Lakes, Gurgaon
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author