Bharat Ratna to Atal Behari Vajpayee: The assertive politician with a human touch


December 24, 2014

For the people of Lucknow the news of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee being conferred the Bharat Ratna has come as an assertion of a special bond the city has with its most loved politician.

Former Indian Prime Minister – Atal Behari Vajpayee

December 24, 2014

For the people of Lucknow the news of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee being conferred the Bharat Ratna has come as an assertion of a special bond the city has with its most loved politician.

Former Indian Prime Minister – Atal Behari Vajpayee

Much before he contested Lok Sabha election from Lucknow, Vajpayee had lived in Lucknow as a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and was familiar with all lanes and bylanes of Lucknow, having traversed the city on a bicycle. He used to share a one-room accommodation with the late Jan Sangh leader Deen Dayal Upadhyaya in Marwari Gali locality in Aminabad.

Most people who spent time with him, share the view that Vajpayee's simplicity, large-heartedness and the manner of putting everyone at ease won him countless admirers. "He never allowed his ego to come in the way of his interaction with others," remembers Atma Prakash Mishra of Lucknow Doordarshan Kendra, while recalling how Vajpayee appreciated his compering of the annual Akashvani Awards programme in Lucknow in 1999. "It was my first experience of conducting the programme and I was hugely nervous but Vajpayee perhaps realized this and at the end especially complimented me."

Desh Deepak Tiwari, who is a Vedic astrologer now based in Mumbai, remembers him as a benign patriarch who always had a piece of advice for anyone who was in distress. By virtue of his sister having been married to Vajpayee's nephew, Tiwari called him Mamashri. He remembers him as an orator par excellence. "He always spoke in a clear and assertive manner. We remember the way he played the role of a catalyst to those who needed guidance." However, he says Vajpayee never allowed anyone to exploit his position and political stature, saying that his roles as a politician and as a family patriarch were different.

"Vajpayee has never been conscious about his health and used to relish whatever was made at home. His favorite was thandai with bhang which he enjoyed but only when washed and made with Gangajal in the small company of close family members. A favorite line with him was – saath prameh ko door kare, jab aangane aawat bhang bhawani, meaning that a drink of bhang had the quality to keep away several ailments."

Another line close to his heart was Nana charitram sachitram vichitram iti chalchittram – meaning that the world is like a moving picture in which everyone plays the role assigned to him.

K.K. Shukla, a member of Bharatiya Janata Party's national executive, also recalls an incident related to food. "Once he visited Lucknow during 1995 and was staying in VIP Guest House. Due to some reason he did not eat the food prepared there and left the guest house and came to his flat in Mall Avenue. There his nephew Raj offered to either send for some food or cook something, but Vajpayee insisted that he would make lunch for all. He then proceeded to make urad ki khichdi for all, saying that he wanted to inculcate some values in his nephew regarding food."

Shukla also recalls that in 1993 Vajpayee was in Lucknow and was saddened at the demolition of the mosque in Ayodhya in December 1992. "The then BJP general secretary Rajnath Singh Surya quipped to the press that Vajpayee could do nothing else than reciting 'four lines of poetry.' Vajpayee came to know of this comment but did not react. Later, he was the chief guest at a Holi Milan function where Surya was also present. Vajpayee was requested to say something and he said he could only 'recite four lines of a poem' obviously aimed at Surya. But true to his large heartedness, he later proposed Surya's name for nomination to Rajya Sabha, preferring to ignore the latter's comment."

He recalls another anecdote of his easy manner and repartee from the 80s. A former Lucknow MLA Ram Kumar Shukla decided to set up a school and invited a noted Hindi litterateur Shiv Singh Saroj to preside over the foundation laying ceremony. Saroj was reluctant since the proposed school was an English-medium institution, but he came since Vajpayee was also coming. At the function Vajpayee jokingly remarked Inko kahaan le aaye… ye to Hindi ke lekhak hain? But Saroj, too, replied that since Vajpayee himself being a strong proponent of Hindi was there, how could he be left behind? Vajpayee shared the loud laughter that followed.

Dr Ram Kapoor, a noted eye surgeon and formerly convener of the State BJP Doctors' Cell, remembers that Vajpayee always put everyone around him at ease with his laughter and anecdotes.

Recalls Ram Krishna, who has served a prominent English newspaper for more than three decades, that once Vajpayee was chief guest at a lawyers' conference in Chowk. "At an informal chat with newspersons, someone asked how it felt to be unmarried. Vajpayee said Shaadi nahi ki to kya hua? Baraat to bahut dekhi hain? This put everyone at ease and a great laughter followed."

Asif Zaman Rizvi, whose father Aizaz Rizvi was a minister in the BJP government in 1991-92, says that it was his father who always prepared Vajpayee's nomination papers to be filed for the elections he contested from Lucknow. Another interesting anecdote is when Vajpayee came to his late father's ministerial bungalow for an Id Milan function. "He called me and whispered in my ear that he wanted to visit the washroom! I quietly took him to one and stood guard outside. This response was so human that later I used to freely approach him to claim Idi (a token gift) whenever I met him on Id."

A huge civic felicitation has been organized in Lucknow on December 25 to mark Vajpayee's birthday and the bestowing of Bharat Ratna to him.

Courtesy: Firstpost