The news about the passing away of Bharatiya Janata Pary (BJP) patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee brings back memories of an era that saw the BJP almost always as an opposition party struggling to be at centre stage of politics in India. As one of the top two leaders of a party which for decades and decades remained in the opposition space wanting to get an opportunity to be in power made Vajpayee a leader who possessed humility and modesty. Known for his warmth and poetic mind Vajpayee ruled people’s hearts like no other leader.
Vajpayee remained ill and politically inactive for many years before he passed away but still somehow his passing away marks the end of an era in which politicians were known for their knowledge, statesmanship and balanced approach.
Building the BJP since 1985, when it was born, Vajpayee travelled the length and breadth of the country meeting grass root workers of the party in almost every state. Senior BJP activists in Maharashtra now fondly remember how Vajpayee had at some point or the other had visited their village or town and perhaps had a meal sitting in their humble household. The man always remained grounded.
Vajpayee was perhaps the first non-Congress leader who was known for his oratory and insightful speeches. Before Vajpayee, India knew leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Azad, Indira Gandhi and some others who were known for their oratory. But Vajpayee was the first non-Congress politicians who commanded respect from the audiences just for his oratory.
Many experts have analysed Vajpayee’s career. Some said,
“It seemed to have been greatly impressed with Indira Gandhi’s success in the 1971 elections. His sympathy was with her and he was quite uncomfortable in the company of the Swatantra Party. He and the late Deendayal Upadhyay made the Jan Sangh (predecessor of the BJP) a populist understudy of the Congress. The Emergency brought the Jan Sangh closer to the opposition parties. He was reluctant to leave the Janata Party in 1980 but was forced by others. He then insisted that the new party be named the Bharatiya Janata Party to carry forward the legacy of the Janata Party. But by 1987, he was out manoeuvred and the Ayodhya issue was officially taken up by the BJP but Vajpayee decided to stay away from it. The rath yatra was taken out by LK Adwani. Which showed Vajpayee did not approve of using emotive issues in politics beyond a limit”.
In 1987, when the entire opposition was pre-occupied with Bofors, the RSS cadre was busy painting the country with the slogan ‘Garv se bolo, hum Hindu hain’. The result of this mass pressure was the Palampur resolution of the BJP and Ayodhya was brought on the centre-stage of Indian politics. The RSS has floated parallel mass organisations like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, the Sadhu Samaj and the Bajrang Dal, which are used by it to generate mass pressure on the BJP leadership.
Vajpayee will be remembered as first Indian Prime Minister who came from the Hindu nationalist party BJP. But he will also be remembered as perhaps the most liberal progressive leaders among the Hindu nationalists. India will never forget his contribution to its polity.