A great statesman


Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a beloved leader whose appeal cut across party lines (“Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister, passes away at 93”, August 16, online). He was a paradox: a liberal and moderate politician and an avowed pracharak. He was a poet and had a pluralist approach to politics. He will go down in history as a great statesman.

Vajpayee was too much in the Nehruvian mould to look like the inheritor of the legacy of the likes of K.B. Hedgewar and M.S. Golwalkar. He once said, “The Sangh is my soul.” Yet he had an uneasy relationship with the RSS when he was Prime Minister. He famously distanced himself from the Ayodhya movement and revealed his mental make-up when he asked Narendra Modi, then Gujarat Chief Minister, to follow ‘raj dharma’ in 2002.

Vajpayee’s efforts with Pakistan hold lessons for today. He believed that friends can be changed but not neighbours. His coinage, “Insaniyat, Kashmiriyat and Jamhooriat”, still resonates as the only plausible solution to the Kashmir problem. What is still debatable is whether the Pokhran nuclear tests he conducted fortified our national security.

G. David Milton,


Vajpayee will be remembered as a poet-politician. During my college days in the 196Os, some classmates who had heard Vajpayee speak on stage told me that he was the most eloquent speaker around. My own chance to hear him in person came in January 1971. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had got the Lok Sabha dissolved and had called for elections in February 1971. The Grand Alliance opposing her was countering her popular slogan “Garibi Hatao” with “Indira Hatao”.

Vajpayee, then the national president of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, came to Mumbai to address an election meeting at Gandhi Maidan in Chembur. He began his speech: “Hamari Pradhan Mantri kehti hain ‘Garibi Hatao’ (Our Prime Minister says remove poverty)”. Then, after a brief pause, he said: “Garibi hati nahin hai! Garibi ghati bhi nahin hai (Poverty has neither been eradicated nor reduced)!”

J.V. Yakhmi,


Vajpayee will be especially remembered for his acumen in running coalition governments, which was why he is often referred to as the architect of coalition politics.

Murari Mohan,


Seeing the high price of petrol now, I remember how Vajpayee arrived at Parliament House in a bullock cart in November 1973 to protest against the increase in petrol and kerosene prices. Vajpayee was also known for his oratory, so much so that it was Nehru who had noticed his questions and speeches in the Lok Sabha and had predicted that Vajpayee would become Prime Minister one day.

As Prime Minister, Vajpayee’s biggest gifts were the National Highways Development Project, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana, and the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, not the nuclear tests that he is remembered for today. He will also be remembered as a politician who was civil in public discourse. His passing away is a great loss to the nation.

Bidyut Kumar Chatterjee,


In the passing away of Vajpayee, the country has lost a great parliamentarian, a charismatic leader and a great Prime Minister. Vajpayee’s eloquence is unparalleled. There are few statesmen like him, in the true sense of the word.

Seshagiri Row Karry,


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Printable version | Sep 16, 2021 6:38:27 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/letters/a-great-statesman/article24708765.ece

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