By Manju Gupta
Atalji the Pathfinder by Ramesh Patange (Ed.), Weekly Vivek Prakashan, 2 vols., 214 & 230 pp, Rs 700 (both volumes)
THE compilation of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee'sspeeches and views is carried in the first volume, which contains his speeches on national issues, external affairs, social issues, particular issues and his tributes to various national leaders.
The first and prime issue for the country is the Jammu and Kashmir problem. Speaking on this contentious issue, Vajpayee has criticised ?the incongruous status of Jammu and Kashmir state should come to an end, because it has a separate Constitution, separate head of state and a separate flag in spite of being an integral part of India, and this state should be brought fully at par with other states of India.? In a scathing attack he said, ?Why should the special status of Jammu and Kashmir be maintained? Why should it not be brought on par with other states? The very same people who complain that they have become second-class citizens in India also talk of maintaining the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.? He vociferously demanded abrogation of Article 370 in his speech in the Lok Sabha on November 22, 1968.
On secularism, he has said, ?Secularism cannot be strengthened in the country by promoting Muslim communalism. Secularism is not just a Congress slogan; it is a mantra that has emerged from the country'sculture. Could India not have been declared a Hindu State after Independence? Pakistan did it, but we did not. Why??
On the Ram temple, he has said, ?Ram temple will not be constructed by foul or unfair means. If Ram temple is constructed, it would be constructed on the basis of moral strength. There was no need to assemble a large number of Karsevaks. Had there been an intention to demolish the structure, it would have been done easily without collecting Karsevaks in large numbers.?
Vajpayee in 1972, in the Lok Sabha made a virulent attack on the Simla agreement: ?I say we have committed a blunder at Simla. There is still time to undo that wrong. Talks should again be held with Pakistan before vacating the territory.? He even said, ?The history of Pakistan till today is not the history of honouring agreements; it is a history of violating them.?
In the second volume, the contents present the views of eminent individuals on him as a person and his contributions to country'spolicies as a statesman.
Madan Das has talked of Atalji as a Swayamsevak while Dr N.M. Ghatate has related amusing remarks made by Vajpayee. One of them is with reference to relations with Pakistan and China, when Vajpayee remarked, ?I can change history, but I cannot change geography.? He told Pakistani leadership ?goli and boli cannot go together?. Just as he had reacted to Pakistan leader'sstatement that Pakistan is not complete without Kashmir, with his characteristic words, ?If that is so, I would say India is not complete without Pakistan.? In another incident in the 1992 UP Assembly elections, other opposition parties, who knew Vajpayee would win, were saying, ?Upar ka vote Atalji ko dijiye, par niche ka humko do.? When he was told about it, he quipped in a public speech, ?Yadi aapne kurta mujhe diya aur dhoti dusre ko di, to mera kya haal hoga??
He has related another incident when India'sfirst Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru fully agreed with Vajpayee'scomment ?To speak, one requires voice, but to keep silent one requires voice as well as intellect.? In another incident, Nehru could not help laughing when Vajpayee, replying to Nehru'scriticism of Jana Sangh, said, ?I knew the Prime Minister does (shirshasana) head-stand every day. I have no objection. But why does he see my party upside down??
Political commentators and politicians have commented on his foreign policy, economic affairs, India'sdevelopment and national issues, about which we have been reading in newspapers while the BJP-led NDA government was in power, but there are certain interesting portions which everyone could not be familiar with. B.N. Jog has talked of Vajpayee'sconcept on Hindutva. He says, ?Atalji never practised Hindutva politics insofar as he never used the concept of Hindutva towards political ends. But with the politics he practised during the last 50 years, he has taken Hindutva to the pinnacle of national life.?
Here is a book which should be read by all fans of Vajpayee.
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