Every year has its ups and downs. This year has perhaps reached its down with the demise of our beloved ex PM Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji. Specially the political void which was already beginning to deepen in the month of August after the demise of Kalignar M Karunanidhi, Somnath Chatterjee, deepened perhaps too much now.
A stalwart leader, stout statesman and a wonderful orator, Vajpayee jee was liked not only by his followers, but also by his critics. Known to be an amiable leader, who would at the same time never shy away from taking bold decisions, Vajpayee jee truly left his mark in Indian politics and in the hearts of people.
I can go on and on with the praises and honours – how great a leader, gentleman and eloquent speaker (et al) he was but that’s something which the masses already know. He had many characteristics which people adorned, people have written it in their answers here too.
But let me elaborate on why ‘I’ particularly liked him and why his demise affects me unusually.
There was a general liking for him in my household when he was the Prime Minister and so I remember when I was 8-9 year old we would watch his speeches on our television set on doordarshan – but memories from that time is not a clear one, I can recall events in just bits and pieces (mostly that he would take long pauses in his speech), but one which stands out is this-
The anecdote dates back to early 2004 (or perhaps late 2003), part of his election campaign there used to be a phone number on which if you would dial, Atal ji’s recorded voice could be heard on the other side where he would speak a few words – probably his government’s achievements (that time the slogan was “India Shining”) with a clichéd sarkaari made tune in the back and would end his speech with typical vote for Bhajpa phrase. Now, this was impactful because for a nine year old it meant that he could now and then dial up that number and show it to his friends too. It had become a game to me. Less informed friends of mine would be easily fooled and would ask me – how did I get the number and could I really talk to Atal Ji directly? (Such innocence/ignorance) All this would be very trivial and nonsensical when you hear about it now but at that time small things like this would engage a 9 year old and his friends for 1-2 days. So naturally, Atal Ji became my favourite. Unaware of party politics, ideologies, manifestos or feeblest of political gyaan, I had sided with Atal ji, the first politician/PM I would recall whenever asked about my Political awareness in later times.
Now later when I had become a little bit mature and politically aware (probably by the age of 15) my fondness for him grew. The reasons were many. I saw several repeats of his speeches on TV, short documentaries on his Birthdays, his no confidence motion speech, post pokhran test press conferences, his skilled poetry etc. But again, what stuck the chord at an emotional level, was that he resembled my grandfather (not exactly but still)! I mean I don’t know why, he only partially looked like him or perhaps it was the same mannerism (more apt) but for me whenever I saw Atal ji I was reminded of dada ji. And it felt great. So after my grandfather passed away in 2010 whenever I would look at the video snippets of Atal ji, I would be reminded of him. Great personality my grandfather was – educated, soft spoken, disciplined, humourous, likeable.
Anyway, So yes, from being politically neutral (mainly ignorant), I, leaned right! And rightfully so. Because this ignited the flame of politics in me, which in future would make me more interested in politics, government, policies and ofcourse the drama. Atal ji was a gem. Majority would agree. Leaders like him are only handful.
“Satta ka khel to chalega, sarkaare aayengi/jaayengi party banegi/bigdengi, magar ye desh rehna chahiye. Iss desh ka loktantra amar rehna chahiye” (by which he wanted to emphasise on the point that – Indian democracy’s greatest strength is that we have always put the nation above politics). This statement itself throws light on his priorities.
All (good) things must come to an end. Old age is inevitable. Yet, his legacy, wont die! RIP Atal ji, you will be fondly remembered. Convey my Pranam to Dadaji.
Credit: Aruneesh Sukla