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Saluting Vajpayee!

I was a staunch Congress loyalist till 1996, but I was converted to being an Atal Bihari fan when I sat through (watching on TV) the parliamentary proceedings that led to the fall of Atalji’s 13 day government.

The attitude and determination that Atalji displayed during the aforementioned session of parliament was repeatedly displayed during the 1998 elections and subsequently in managing the NDA coalition. Irrespective of whether his party had a covert agenda or not, Vajpayee himself came up with an overt agenda, which he started implementing immediately after assuming office. The May 1998 Pokharan tests were probably as much a demonstration of Vajpayee’s grit as they were of India’s military and technological might. While on one hand, decisions like Pokharan gave the nation a reason to be proud of, the Sarv Shiksha Abhiyaan, Gram Sadak Yojana, Grameen Rojgaar Yojna and other visionary schemes provided the much needed impetus for infrastructure development. Of all of Atalji’s ideas, the Golden Quadrilateral project stands out as a project that combines both the aims – providing basic infrastructural facilities to the nation and being a symbol of national pride.

What separates Vajpayee from other past Prime Ministers is a strong vision that has been developed and sharpened in this very soil. Vajpayee was not a product of any foreign institution; neither did he spend any major portion of his life outside this nation. His ideas hence arise from a strong skill to observe and analyze problems and seek solutions to them, rather than observe an already successful scheme/project in another part of the world and adapt the same to India.

I do not intend to demean the approach of observing best practices in the world and adapting them here; it is necessary that we adopt best practices and learn from other’s mistakes. However, the best way to develop ourselves is by innovating solutions to our problems rather than just adopt readymade solutions. The ‘readymade-solution’ technique has two major pitfalls. One, it erodes and rusts our own skills and abilities to think innovatively. Two, when adopting an existing model we not only inherit the benefits but also inherit the inbuilt inefficiencies and disadvantages of the model. This is especially true if the need which the model tries to address is of a different nature. A classic example is the continuance of the Macaulian System of education in India that has created a massive rift between those who have access to cheap higher education and those who cannot even afford primary education. The Macaulian model addresses the wrong problems, which India does not need solutions to.

But I digress. Coming back to Vajpayee.
Vajpayee, as a leader was never as charismatic as probably Indira Gandhi or Pandit Nehru, but he is definitely a highly respected figure across political and ideological groups for the strength of character he displayed. One would probably compare him to Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel – while Vallabh Bhai was responsible to bring together so many different states under the common umbrella of the Indian Union, Vajpayee was instrumental in bringing and keeping together a coalition of midsized to miniscule regional parties under a common ideology of nation building and national pride. True that even the Congress today is running a coalition Government but the credit of ushering the coalition era in India would always go to Vajpayee.

I remember when I had traveled by bike to a remote village in Chattisgarh, and was surprised to find cemented roads there. I saluted Atal Bihari Vajpayee then, as do I every time when I touch the much famed Mumbai-Pune Expressway!

Postscript: This post formed inside me during a marathon of trips to and from Pune (-Mumbai) along the Mumbai-Pune Expressway during the past two weekends.

3 Comments to " Saluting Vajpayee! "

  1. i rememebr an interview ABV gave a few years back, when he was asked, "aapka naam Atal Bihari hai.. ek aadmi ya to ATAL ho sakta hai ya BIHARI.. aap kya hain??"
    atalji replied, "jab zaroorat ho tab main ATAL hun, aur jab zaroorat ho to main BIHARI hun.."

  2. Well. It seems the interviewer hadn't done enough homework. 'Bihari' in Atalji's name stands for one of the names of Lord Krishna - more correctly spelt as 'Behari'. So it has nothing to do with being 'Atal'.
    By the political acumen that Atalji displays, he deserves the middle name 'Behari'.

  3. Hey,
    Even I have been a supporter of this man..But offlate his age has taken over him.. And thats sad, coz he is amongst those very rare species of politicians who are clean..

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