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TRIBUNE EDIT AUG 17-A universally loved politician Vajpayee set templates that surprised

August 17, 2018 05:30 AM

COURSTEY THE TRIBUNE AUG 17

A universally loved politician
Vajpayee set templates that surprised
THE man was a marvel. There have been few politicians like Atal Bihari Vajpayee who so effortlessly stepped across the Lakshman rekha of party propriety and ideology and yet garnered all-round respectability. Right from his debut in the Lok Sabha, there were murmurs by his constipated colleagues about his waywardness and ‘un-swayamsevak-like’ behaviour. The minders kept their counsel because of the rarity in their ranks of a silver-tongued communicator like Vajpayee. Compared with other anti-Congress young Turks of the time, Vajpayee was entirely home-schooled in politics. Yet, the man gave the impression of being more forgiving, open-hearted and oriented towards politics of consensus than those schooled in tenets of western liberalism.
His speech in Parliament that was noticed by Nehru marked him out as a politician to watch out for. And Vajpayee paid the price when it rolled out one of its big guns to humble him in the 1962 elections. Vajpayee was to brush off this dust of defeat several times in his career even as he silkily positioned himself for the top job in the party, leaving it to LK Advani to wield the axe on their one-time mentor Balraj Madhok to land control of the party. The Emergency tested his resolve and staying power as did a barren stretch after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. Vajpayee braved them both.
Vajpayee’s hour arrived in 1998. And till ill-health laid him low, he occupied the political centre-stage with hardly a single blemish of graft, nepotism or rank opportunism blighting his 50 years of public service. As PM, he endured the usual tumultuousness of helming a country, besides countering challenges to his authority with customary élan and panache. His experience enabled him to control the narrative — be it the nuclear tests, the Kargil conflict or the 2002 Gujarat riots. His inclusion in the pantheon of greats was guaranteed when he was felled by a paralytic attack in 2009. The only regret would be that Vajpayee entered South Block 10 years late when his health was already on the decline.

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