India's Leader of the Masses Bid Adieu at 93
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Sorrow flowed in the form of tears as the nation mourned the demise of their beloved leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The former Prime Minister held a sacred space in the hearts of countrymen, which today became void with his saddening departure.
The man who never accepted defeat without a fight, an outstanding poet, ardent reader and prodigious orator, former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee is remembered of not one but many virtues.
Born to a humble school teacher in 1924, Vajpayee had developed a soft corner for politics at an early age. A post-graduate in political science, he started his political journey with Quit India Movement in 1942.
Vajpayee had to undergo a rough path before becoming the only non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full term from 1999 to 2004. First invited to form government in 1996 by the then President Shankar Dayal Sharma, he had to step down as Indian PM within 13 days as BJP failed to prove majority.
In March 1998, Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister but the unlucky 13 followed him then too. 13 months after forming the government at the centre, BJP lost the confidence vote leaving the country to function under President’s rule. But how could the strong-willed leader have accepted defeat that easily?
He bounced back with stronger public support and served as the Prime Minister for 5 full years. During his tenure, the government took a number of initiatives to promote exports, information technology and industrialization and improve India’s relation with neighbouring countries.
Apart from boosting trade ties with the People's Republic of China, India established strategic military and trade cooperation with Israel and the United States under Vajpayee’s leadership. In a bid to make peace with Pakistan, Vajpayee never held back from taking serious actions.
The Bharat Ratna recipient travelled to Pakistan on the inaugural Delhi-Lahore Bus with hopes of resolving the bilateral disputes between the two nations.
During his tenure, India established itself as a nuclear weapon power nation by conducting five underground nuclear tests – Pokhran-II. Reports suggest that Vajpayee wasn’t happy with PM Narendra Modi when Gujarat riots broke out in 2002 and wanted him to quit as the state’s Chief Minister.
Known for charming his way into citizens’ hearts with his fiery speeches seasoned with poetry, Vajpayee harboured a rhetoric side. His inspirational proficiency in oration worked as magic for his success as a people’s man.
Whenever the leader par excellence spoke in Parliament or public, he drew praises from peers. Dripping with patriotism, his humble speeches never failed to strike a chord with the masses including Opposition parties.
Vajpayee once said that the streams of his poetry had dried in the desert of politics; his exact words – “lekin rajniti keregistan me ye kavita ki dhara sukh gayi.” But the heart always finds a way to fulfill its desire, so did the veritable orator by adding poetry to his speeches.
The eloquent poet had penned many works; few of his famous poems till date include Kaidi Kavirai Ki Kundalian, a collection that he wrote during his stay in the jail during Emergency, Amar Aag Hai and Meri Ekyavan Kavitayen.
Gifted in spirit, heart and mind, Atal Bihari Vajpayee dedicated his entire life to the nation. True to the meaning of his name – Atal – he remained firm in his beliefs and values but believed in making friends. Even the Opposition was seen as rivals, not enemies during his illustrious three terms as the Prime Minister of India.
Vajpayee was like a father figure to Indian citizens who fondly addressed him as ‘Baapji’ with love. Compassionate for the evolution and growth of free India, the economic visionary enjoyed deep respect by all.
The seasoned politician had such a way with words that facilitated him in switching from disarming humour to a lofty vision with ease. As mentioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his blog post, Vajpayee had “a rare ability to connect with people naturally, to stir them to self-belief and to a higher cause.”
As blunt as Vajpayee was in his approach, he wanted people to remember him as a ‘good man’ after his death, who ‘endeavoured to make his country and the world a better place’ in his own words.
Legends never die, they live on in our hearts and so will Atal Bihari Vajpayee.