The¬†Bhishma-Pitamah of Indian politics, Atal Bihari Vajpayee breathed his last today at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi after a prolonged illness.
A prolific poet, an erudite statesman and a charismatic leader, Vajpayee had the stature of Everest in Indian politics.
ENTERED POLITICS ACCIDENTLY
Atal Ji¬†wanted to pursue journalism and his entry into politics was totally accidental, he revealed in an interview.
However, he did work as an editor for Rashtradharma¬†and¬†Panchjanya,¬†which were monthly and weekly magazines, and two dailies,¬†Veer Arjun & Swadesh.
SHARED A CLASS WITH HIS FATHER
He studied law at DAV College, Kanpur. His father, Mr. Krishna Bihari Vajpayee also expressed his desire to study law and in fact, they both were admitted to the same class! Later on, when the students started talking about it, their classes were changed.
Contrary to his party’s ideals, Atal Ji was inclined towards communism in the beginning. However, in 1939 after being deeply influenced by Babasaheb Apte, he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
His father, however, did not allow him to wear the RSS Khakhi pants at home!
HIS FIRST LOK SABHA ELECTION
One of the longest-serving parliamentarians, Vajpayee contested his first elections from three constituencies- Lucknow, Balrampur, and Mathura in 1957. He won from the Balrampur seat and lost the other two.
DEFEATED AT HIS BIRTHPLACE
In 1984, Vajpayee lost elections from Gwalior, which happens to be his birthplace. The 1984 elections were held in the aftermath of Smt Indira Gandhi’s assassination and the Congress swept the polls.
The BJP fought the 1984 elections under his leadership, and immediately after the dismal performance, Atal Ji offered to resign!
AN UNCONVENTIONAL LEADER
In 1973, Mr. Vajpayee arrived in the parliament on a bullock cart to protest against the rising fuel prices. This unique way of protest, popularly known as the “bullock cart entry” made headlines all over the world!
THE UNLUCKY 13!
In 1998, Atal Ji became the Prime Minister for just 13 days. In 1998-99, his government remained in the center for 13 months. Finally, on 13th October 1999, he again took the oath to become the Prime Minister of India, this time, for a full term!
A MAN OF COURAGE, A MAN OF HARMONY
May 11, 1998. It was under Atal Ji’s leadership that India performed its first nuclear tests (Operation Shakti) at Pokhran, Rajasthan. With worldwide sanctions and condemnation, it was Atal Ji who helped India stand firm in those tough times.
In the same year, Atal Ji started¬†Sada-e-Sarhad,¬†the New Delhi-Lahore Bus Service. An advocator of peace, Mr. Vajpayee said in a famous speech, “You can change friends but not neighbors.”¬†The bus service was discontinued after the 2001¬†attacks on Indian Parliament.
AN EXCELLENT WRITER, A BRILLIANT ORATOR
Mr. Vajpayee was a prolific Hindi-poet and writer. He was the first person to deliver a speech in Hindi at the United Nations.¬†Not only his party members, but his opponents held him in his regard for his astute speeches in the parliament, his witty replies and valuable insights.
With his demise, India has lost a leader who was unabashedly himself, who lifted India’s stature at international platforms. The nation mourns the death of Atal, the man who lead India into the dawn of the new millennium, the man who sang a new song for the modern India.