Tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee on 96th birth anniversary

President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime minister Narendra Modi paid tributes to former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 96th birth anniversary on Friday. Union ministers including Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal were also present Sadaiv Atal — a memorial built near Rashtriya Smriti Sthal.
Known as poet and writer, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a true statesman who served the nation three terms as the Prime Minister. However, his first term as Prime Minister was lasted for a term of 13 days in 1996, then for a period of 13 months from 1998 to 1999, followed by a full term from 1999 to 2004. He was a member of the Indian Parliament for over five decades, having been elected ten times to the Lok Sabha  and twice to the Rajya Sabha. He was among the founding members of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), of which he was president from 1968 to 1972. The BJS merged with several other parties to form the Janata Party, which won the 1977 general election.
Unlike Mahatma Gandhi or Jawaharlal Nehru, who left behind troves of written work, Vajpayee rarely maintained diaries and journals. Vajpayee’s worldview was deeply rooted in the soil of India, and its literary traditions helped forge his mental make-up. The writers and works that he admired included Tulsidas’ Ramacharitmanas, Jaishankar Prasad’s Kamayani, Nirala’s Ram ki Shakti Puja and the poems of Mahadevi Verma. Premchand’s realism impacted him deeply. Other favourites included Jainendra (Patni Aur Preyasi), Ageya (Shekhar: Ek Jeevani) and the many works of Vrindavan Verma, which included historical tales and folklore of his and Vajpayee’s Brajbhumi. These writers reminded him of past glories but also forced him to think about the challenges that needed to be overcome.
Vajpayee ji seemed convinced that India was destined for greatness and, that, in fact, greatness was denied to it. The past was important to ground us but not to imprison us. Politically, the Cold War had ended and the emerging world seemed hostile to India. Vajpayee was able to fashion an approach to the United States (US) even as he defied it and went ahead with the nuclear tests. But he wanted India and the US to be on the same side since he foresaw that the rise of China would be deeply unsettling. He was open to improving relations with China but ultimately, believed India and the US were “natural allies”.

- Prabhakar Purandare

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