TODAY -

Homage to an Apolitical Politician

Seram Neken *



Present Day politicians of Manipur have a lot to learn from the life and politics of Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Present day politics in Manipur is characterized by allegations and counter allegations among political parties and political leaders or workers on a variety of issues prevailing in the state. Instead of chalking out plans unitedly for bringing solutions to the variety of problems haunting the state, the so called politicians of almost all parties indulge in childish blame game, supposedly to garner political gains.

Almost all politicians, be it Minister, MLA or any party worker, are always in the Election Mode during all the 1825 days of the government’s tenure. Leave aside all kinds of emotions during election-time, now after being elected as a leader, our political leaders must switch off the Election Mode and concentrate on the serious national issues confronting the state and its people.

Arrogance, egoism, despotic mindset and apathy, which are quite contrary to the required qualities of a political leader, even if they had been immense during election-time, must be avoided altogether after the elections. Otherwise, the undesirable traits of politicians will be reflected in the governance. Hence, Manipur politicians have a lot to learn from the life, philosophy and practice of the late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who breathed his last on 16 August 2018.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, being a prominent political leader of India who led the formation of Bhartiya Janata Party in 1980, is considered by the posterity as an apolitical man, in consideration of his respect for the other parties and their members. On every issue, he paid due importance to reason or merit of the issue rather than political ends. Political prejudice had little room for such a noble leader during his tenure as Minister holding various portfolios and as Prime Minister of the country.

The India of today, particularly Manipur state need politicians of such a trait, who instead of being cynical towards other parties, prioritize the very merit of the issues at hand. When each and every problem is analysed on party lines, the result is bound to be temporary and unsatisfactory.

Vajpayee, born on 25 December 1924 during the hectic hour of Indian Independence Movement under Mahatma Gandhi, served as the Prime Minister of India three times, only 13 days in 1996, 11 months during 1998-99 and a full term from 1999 to 2004. A celebrated orator, Bajpayee became a member of Parliament for over four decades.

He was elected to the Lok Sabha ten times from Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh, and twice to the Rajya Sabha. He retired from active politics due to health concerns in 2009. Vajpayee was the first Indian prime minister who was not a member of the Indian National Congress party at any point of time to have served a full five-year term in office.

From 1968 to 1972, Vajpayee founded and headed the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh. He held the portfolio of Minister of External Affairs in the cabinet of Prime Minister Morarji Desai. As foreign minister, Vajpayee became the first person in 1977 to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi. When the Janata government collapsed, Vajpayee restructured the Jana Sangh into the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980 and became its first President.

Having completed Master degree in Political Science from DAV College in Kanpur, Atal Bihari became General Secretary of the youth wing of the Arya Samaj in 1944. He also joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a volunteer in 1939, and became a full time worker in 1947. A bachelor and a passionate poet, Vajpayee also worked for a Hindi monthly called Rashtradharma, a Hindi weekly entitled Panchjanya, and the dailies Swadesh and Veer Arjun. During the Quit India Movement, he and his elder brother Prem were arrested for 24 days in August 1942.

In 1951, he started working for the newly formed Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a Hindu right-wing political party associated with the RSS as a National Secretary of the party in charge of the Northern region based in Delhi. His oratory skills so impressed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that the latter predicted Vajpayee would someday become the Prime Minister of India. It happened.

In 1975, Vajpayee was arrested along with several other opposition leaders during the Internal Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Indian National Congress party.

During his tenure, India conducted five underground nuclear tests in Pokhran desert in Rajasthan in May 1998. Later, Vajpayee initiated a full-scale diplomatic peace process with Pakistan with the historic inauguration of the Delhi-Lahore bus service in February 1999. The Lahore Declaration, which espoused a commitment to dialogue, expanded trade relations and mutual friendship and envisaged a goal of denuclearised South Asia, eased the tension created by the 1998 nuclear tests, not only within the two nations but also in the rest of the world.

It was during his Prime Ministership that three month long Kargil war was fought with Operation Vijay launched in June 1999 as its modus operandi. Almost 70% of the territory was recaptured by India by pushing back Pakistani Army. The victory in Kargil bolstered the image of Vajpayee and he was hailed across the country for his bold and strong leadership. As a mark of Kargil Victory, the then BJP President Nitin Gadkari unveiled a wax statue of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Mumbai 26 July 2012.

A national crisis emerged in December 1999, when Indian Airlines flight IC 814 from Kathmandu to New Delhi was hijacked by five terrorists and flown to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. As demanded by the hijackers, the government effected release of certain terrorists like Masood Azhar from prison.

In March 2000, President of the United States Mr. Bill Clinton paid a state visit to India. The first state visit to India by a US President in 22 years, it was hailed as a significant milestone in the relations between the two countries. In the aftermath of the Pokhran tests, the Kargil war and the subsequent coup in Pakistan, there was a major shift in the post-Cold War foreign policy of the United States, thereby bringing about major achievement in expansion of trade and economic ties between the two countries. The Historic Vision Document on the future course of relations between the two countries was signed by Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Clinton during the visit.

Indo-Pak relations had a U-turn when Vajpayee invited Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to Delhi and Agra for a joint summit and peace talks which became known as the Agra summit. Though the summit failed to achieve a breakthrough as President Musharraf declined to leave aside the issue of Kashmir, we must appreciate the venture initiated by the Prime Minister of India.

On 13 December 2001, a group of masked armed men with fake IDs stormed the Parliament House in Delhi and managed to kill several security guards, but the building was sealed off swiftly and security forces cornered and killed the men, who were later proven to be Pakistan nationals.

Indian intelligence reports pointed to a conspiracy rooted in Pakistan. Prime Minister Vajpayee ordered a mobilisation of India's military forces along the international boundary bordering Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Kashmir, which Pakistan responded with the same. For about two years, both nations remained perilously close to a terrible war.

In July 2003, Prime Minister Vajpayee visited China and recognised Tibet as a part of China, which was welcomed by the Chinese leadership. The following year, Sikkim in return was recognised as a part of India. China–India relations improved greatly thereafter. In August 2003, he announced in parliament his "absolute last" effort to achieve peace with Pakistan and initiated the diplomatic process of frequent visits by high-level officials, thereby ending the military stand-off.

From the year 2014, the birthday of Atul Bihari Vajpayee 25 December began to be celebrated as ‘Good Governance Day’. He died on 16 August 2018 due to age related illness. His demise is a great loss to the peaceloving international community.


* Seram Neken (of 'The Voiceless Speaks' ) wrote this article for e-pao.net
The writer is a Columnist & Social Activist who can be contacted at nekenseram(AT)yahoo(DOT)co(DOT)in
This article was webcasted on August 19, 2018.



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