We are for Gandhian socialism, says Vajpayee

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Chandra Shekhar, author of ``The Quest, The Hurdles: A Socialist Testament'' seen during the book release function in New Delhi on Friday.  

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 10. Proclaiming that the era of coalition politics in Indian democracy is here to stay, the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, today said that all parties, big and small, must work together to make coalition governments a success. "No one can be considered untouchable on political grounds. The regional parties have emerged as a strong force and they too deserve a place in national politics," he said.

Mr. Vajpayee was speaking after releasing a book by the former Prime Minister, Chandra Shekhar, titled "The Quest, The Hurdles — A Socialist Testament".

The former Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral, was also present. Published in two volumes by Konark Publishers Pvt. Ltd., the first volume brings together the editorials by Chandra Shekhar in the weekly journal Young Indian between 1971 and 2001. The second volume is an anthology of his editorial views during the three decades on a spectrum of economic issues and foreign affairs.

`Views differ'

Stating that there were key issues on which his views were different from that of Mr. Chandra Shekhar, Mr. Vajpayee said that time had come when the country and its leaders formed policies for realising the ideals of socialism. "But we must not forget that we live in a world of globalisation and industrialisation, so the need is to ensure that both public and private sectors flourish and work in close cooperation."

`Rebel at heart'

Calling Mr. Chandra Shekhar "a rebel at heart" who propagated the ideals of socialism, Mr. Vajpayee asked why the nation had stopped talking about socialism. "It is in the preamble of our Constitution and is a guiding goal for all parties. For the Bharatiya Janata Party, Gandhian socialism is what we want to achieve and make society free of exploitation and full of opportunities. So, we need to start this debate again," he said.

Terming his book as the outcome of an agitator's feelings, Mr. Chandra Shekhar said socialism would remain in this country till there was poverty, hunger, inequality and unemployment. He also expressed concern over the growing lack of communication among political parties and leaders. "Nobody wants to hear the other person's views and respect their thoughts. This is dangerous for our democratic set-up. We seriously need to think of a way out."

`Not against coalition'

Asserting that he was not against coalition governments, said he had reservations about the way these governments functioned. "There is no ethics, policy or limit to such arrangements. We often see small coalition partners pressuring the Prime Minister to get their demands fulfilled. This does no good to a Government's functioning and is dangerous for a nation's growth and development."

Recalling his days in Parliament with Mr. Chandra Shekhar, Mr. Gujral said he was referred to as the "Young Turk" whose actions always created a flutter among his followers and his detractors. His rivals, particularly those in power, tried in vain to threaten and derail his efforts.