Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Vajpayee, an outstanding Prime Minister

By HK Dua | Updated: Aug 16, 2018 21:30 IST

New Delhi [India] Aug 16 (ANI): Atal Bihari Vajpayee was an outstanding Prime Minister, a leader who liked to take others along. This is the reason why Vajpayee could lead a coalition of 24 parties, a coalition that remained happy with his leadership because he was very democratic in his approach.
Vajpayee genuinely wanted to have a dialogue with the people of Kashmir. He believed a solution was possible. He used to speak from the heart when it came to the Kashmiris. He used say Kashmiris are "our own people" so "insaaniyat ki daayre mein (within the boundaries of humanity)" talks would take place.
Despite the Pahalgam killings, he went there for a press conference. A question was asked on it and Vajpayee's response came straight from his heart. I remember it clearly since I was there anchoring the airport press conference next to the helicopter hangar. He is still loved in Kashmir for that statement.
He believed that if Kashmir was sorted out then he could deal with Pakistan.
Despite the bitter experience of Kargil conflict, Vajpayee wanted to improve relations with Pakistan. He held talks with Pakistan's then President Pervez Musharraf to find a solution. Talks failed at Agra in 2001, but even then he continued his efforts. He wanted to improve relations with China, and he wanted peace at home. All minorities had faith in his leadership.
He wanted general peace in the country, so that India could focus more on economic development. He also wanted India to be powerful, and that is why he went for nuclear tests in 1998. That was a major step. He took economic growth seriously, and the economic growth was about 8-9 per cent at that time.
As a Prime Minister, Vajpayee never imposed any restrictions on the press. As a media advisor, I can vouch for that. He never complained about the press and I was never asked to talk to anyone for any interference. After all, I too was a journalist when he invited me to become his media advisor.
Vajpayee was very responsive to criticism. "What is behind criticism? What are the points they have made?" he would always ask and counter those points with facts but not curb the dissenting voice.
He was a thorough democrat and a humanist. That is why when PV Narasimha Rao was the Prime Minister, he asked Vajpayee to go to the International Human Rights Commission, when India was being criticised everyday over human rights issues in Kashmir. He (Rao) asked Vajpayee, who was the Opposition leader, to lead the delegation instead of asking Congress leader Salman Khurshid.
Vajpayee had a great sense of humour and was very witty. Combined with wit and arguments, his Parliament speeches were the best. He used to be a fierce critic of Jawaharlal Nehru's China policy. But when Nehru died, the best speech on the leader was made by none other than Vajpayee.
Incidentally, in one of his earlier speeches, Nehru told Vajpayee that one day "you could be the Prime Minister". Though bitter in criticism, Vajpayee never hit his opponents below the belt. (ANI)
(Journalist HK Dua was the media advisor of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.)