A headline hunter for decades, Atal ji used to say, "I cannot quit politics because nothing is more intoxicating than to see your name in morning newspapers."
New Delhi: Many years ago, Atal Bihari Vajpayee had aptly penned a few lines giving an insight to his mind:
"Chhalna bhare vishwa mein… kewal sapna hi sach hota hae….
Mein bhi rota Aas Paas Jab Koi nahi hota hae
(In this deceptive world, only dreams are your own; I do shed tears at times when I am alone, in isolation.)
His detractors used to call him a 'mask'. The media called him a moderate face in the Hindutva Parivar. Foreign policy experts hail him for nuke tests, delivering his first speech in the UN in Hindi and orchestrating India's strategic shift towards the United States. This was around 1998, and India was already faced with the US sanctions post-Pokhran adventurism of a leader who had pride of being both a Hindu and a devotee of the Hindutva.
In 1998, when Vajpayee named Jaswant Singh as chief negotiator with the US interlocutor Strobe Talbott, Singh was only a deputy chairman of the Planning Commission. Talbott later said, "While Jaswant rightly harmonised Indo-US relations, as the leader of the country and the government, Vajpayee advanced India's interests."
Often dismissed as being soft, the poet-politician knew how to be assertive even in his verses addressed to Pakistan – "Isey mitane ki sazish karne walo se kahedo Chingari ka khel kahatarnak hota hae……..
(Those who are trying to ruin it must be told that to play with fire is a dangerous thing.)
His poems lambasted the double standards of the global community and the UN.
Kab tak Jammu ko Yun-hi
Kab tak julfo ki madira Dhalne denge
Maa beheno ka apman sahenge kab tak
Bhole pandav chup chaap rahenge kab tak …..
Up-till when will you let Jammu Burn, till when this addiction of lust
continue…Up-till when will the sisters and mothers be raped…
Till when the stakeholders (UN/International community) will remain silent."
The founding president of BJP, when it was launched in 1980 after splitting from the united Janata Party of the Seventies, Vajpayee was a perfect foil to his longtime compatriot L K Advani. Patriarch Advani was a forceful speaker with cold logic and argument. Vajpayee was the genius orator, a persuasive man with his characteristic humorous style.
"One big difference between Vajpayee and me was his sense of humour. It always gave me complexity…. Unke samne mein ek rukha-sukha admi raha (Contrast to his humour, I was always dry)," BJP patriarch L K Advani told this journalist on December 16, 2014.
Late Arun Jaitley said perhaps Vajpayee's best speech in Parliament was his homage to Jawaharlal Nehru. Sample the strength of the magical word power: "Death is certain, body is ephemeral… The curtain has come down. The leading actor on the stage of the world displayed his final role and taken the bow."
Some of his well-known phrases both in Parliament and outside in the 1990s and later would also be memorable.
His one-liner to Advani in 1992 on the Ram Temple issue, "Advaniji yad rakhiye aap… Ayodhya ja rahen haen Lanka nahi (Advani, please remember you are going to Ayodhya and not Lanka)" was as famous as his assertions.
Vajpayee would be also be remembered for his description of P V Narasimha Rao as a 'karma-yogi' in Parliament while taking a dig at Rao's now-famous oneliner: "Not to take decision is also a decision." Vajpayee's remarks – "sun ney ko aya, nirnay na lena bhi ek nirnay hae" had left even Congressmen laughing, and Rao had to stand up briefly to defend himself.
He is certainly celebrated for his pan-India acceptability. For hundreds of BJP workers and his followers-Vajpayee was also a harbinger of a new Hindutva-centric nationalistic revolution.
Some years back, Sunil Shastri, son of illustrious Lal Bahadur Shastri, has aptly said, "Vajpayee ji was the first as Morarji Desai's foreign minister to speak in Hindi in the UN, today when the Modi government has taken Yoga to the UN and the world community, his vision has been taken to a logical conclusion."