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  • Writer's pictureAjinkya Waradpande

When the Parliament of India shed tears.

Former PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee addressing UNGA Image Credit: Deccan Herald/Flickr

A light has gone out from the life of millions A greatness has passed away and what remains are the pure thoughts & ideas of the person whose sheer presence had enlightened the nation. The people of this country mourn in sadness that a guide has left to abode the chair in heaven. In heaven where even the Gods are awaiting his ascend at the pearly gates. A rarest of the rare charismatic leader, a statesman par excellence. Let the world remember the kind gentleman with a pure smile on the face. With the clarity of thoughts and an immense understanding of what is right and wrong, a big-hearted person who always taught everyone to become a good human. A consensus builder and a reformer, BharatRatna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. I chant in Sanskrit shat shat naman.

On 16th August 2018, just the day after 72nd Independence Day of India, he freed himself away from this mortal life to reach into the eternity. It is an end of an epoch, “Yugant” as it is said Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

It often happens in life that, you come across icons which instantly connect with you. I don’t exactly remember what the moment was? but I have always found that connect with one of India’s greatest leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee. If in the world there is one leader in whom I believed completely that was him. I have never met him, nor have I attended his rally’s, I am quite young, and he was already in 70’s while I was in early teens. But I have read him. I have read him through his politics, I have read him through his poetry and I have read him through his great oratorical art, his speeches! I have read him through his vision of India.

While writing about him on his sad demise, I am at loss of words not only that, but I am at a complete loss. There was something about his charisma that attracted me, and millions of people who belong to my age, the age before me and the age before that. No matter how many times I listened to his speeches I wanted more, I reiterated them but never got bored.

He was a statesman par excellence, one who truly believed in and personified the democratic parliamentary system. A visionary who understood things not only from one side but from every corner. India entered the 21st century under his leadership and no other leader would have fitted to the role of carrying India into this advanced century. Every progress that India is making today is built on the foundation laid by him. Whether it be a ‘Golden Quadrilateral’, ‘India’s nuclear advances’, ‘Telecom revolution’ or world recognizing India’s importance on an International platform.

The foundation he built was on the works done by previous prime ministers, he always remembered their contribution to the country. He created a niche about himself in the parliament, where his membership spanned over 60 years. He was recognized as early as by the first Prime Minister of India Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, with whom he had many debates, but Nehru stated that one day “Atal will become the prime minister of India.” Nehru even took a special interest and always asked him to meet different personalities from different countries during a delegation visit to India. The Foreign affairs were of special interest to Vajpayee and he can be considered a connoisseur of it. He even became the External Affairs Minister in 1978 after 1977 Emergency. He tried to establish good relations with all the countries. His speech in Hindi in the United Nations General Assembly received an applause.

The world rarely sees such great leaders taking center stage and guiding the nation into inclusion of development. His quotes were always subtle and can be taken as torchlight to move further. If I could mention here a few excerpts from his speeches, I would choose the following.

On Education:

“Education, in the truest self of the term, is a process of self-discovery. It is the art of self-sculpture. It trains the individual not so much in specific skills or in a specific branch of knowledge, but in a flowering of his or her latent intellectual, artistic and humanist capacities. The test of education is whether it imparts an urge for learning and learnability, not this or that information.” -December 28, 2002 – inaugural Speech of the Golden Jubilee Celebration of the University Grants Commission

On building good relations with neighboring countries:

“You can change friends but not neighbors.” In the Parliament May 2003

On Poverty:

“Poverty is multidimensional. It extends beyond money incomes to education, healthcare, skill enhancement, political participation and advancement of one’s own culture & social organization.” -September 25, 2003 – address at the 58th session of United Nations General Assembly

He always tried to understand and strengthen the dynamics of the democratic system in the country. It was like he was born to spread the message of how effective a democratic leadership can be. Every speech of his in Parliament or outside spoke about strengthening the process of democracy and believing in it. Becoming the Prime Minister in 1998 and then in 1999, he was steering the country with 23 allied political parties, a job only he could do. Not only that but taking tough decisions while doing so shows the remarkable political acumen of Vajpayee. Decisions like the Pokhran nuclear test, Kargil war with Pakistan, then extending the hand of peace after the war, disinvesting from the nationalized companies are some of the major examples of it. One can only wonder how he successfully led the country for 6 years, the first non-congress Prime Minister to complete the full term.

He was the pioneer of proposing alternate ideology in the country where Indian National Congress was dominant. He was first such leader in the opposition right from Nehru to Indira Gandhi to Rajiv Gandhi and then to PV Narasimha Rao who was considered important and his opinions were always considered. He raised the class of the Leader of opposition and made it an important place in Indian Parliamentary system. One thing signifies him is his respect towards his political opponents and never making below the belt remarks. “Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a class apart Parliamentary a constructive parliamentarian”, as his close aide and friend Dr. N. M. Ghatate says.

He had followers across the political spectrum. Rarely a leader has been born in this country who commanded respect uniformly. The last leader that I remember who could unify India on such a scale was Bal Gangadhar Tilak, and he was appropriately named “Lokmanya – accepted by people.” We are already on the verge of forgetting him. As I scribble through my blog while mourning his demise, my thoughts are pouring randomly. How much can one say and how much can one write? The tallest leader when passes away only thing one can do to keep him alive is to follow his ideology and imbibe his thoughts.

Let there be no doubt that Atal Bihari Vajpayee is greatness personified.

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