Atalji : A Unique Parliamentarian

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L.K. Advani

If I have to single out one person who has been an integral part of my political life almost from its inception till now, one who has remained my close ally in the party for well over fifty years, and whose leadership I have always unhesitatingly accepted, it would be Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Many political observers have noted that it is not only rare but, indeed, unparalleled in independent India’s political history for two political personalities to have worked together in the same organisation for so long and with such a strong spirit of partnership. I regard this long comradeship with Atalji a proud and invaluable treasure of my political life.

Experience has taught me that long-lasting and fulfilling relationships in politics are possible only on the basis of mutual trust, respect and commitment to certain shared lofty goals. Politics driven by power play is, by its very nature, competitive and conflict-ridden. But politics driven by a common ideology and nurtured by common ideals and samskaras is a different matter altogether. When a higher purpose brings a set of people together, they learn to overlook and sideline small matters and personality related issues. Many people have asked me,’How did your partnership with Atalji endure for over fifty years? Did you never have any differences or problems with him?’

I can well understand the puzzlement in this question. But I can also say, in all honesty that, contrary to what some people have been speculating since decades now, the relationship between Atalji and me was never competitive, much less combative. I do not imply that we never had any difference of opinion. Yes, we have sometimes had divergent views. Our personalities are different and, naturally, our judgements on individuals, events and issues have differed on many occasions. This is natural in any organisation that values internal democracy. However, what lent depth to our relationship were three factors. We both were strongly moored in the ideology, ideals and ethos of the Jana Sangh and the BJP, which commanded all its members to put Nation first, Party next, and Self last. We never allowed differences to undermine mutual trust and respect But there was also a third and very important factor: I always implicitly and unquestioningly accepted Atalji to be my senior and my leader. From the very early stages of our association, I always used to submit whatever Atalji decided with regard to organisational and political matters.

I would put forth my views but once I sensed that Atalji wanted, I would invariably go along with his viewpoint or preference. My responses were so predictable that sometimes my colleagues in the party, or leaders in the RSS, would express their displeasure over what they perceived as my inability or unwillingness to disagree with Atalji’s decisions. This, however, made no difference to my conviction that Atalji’s must be the last word in all party-related—and, later, in government-related— matters. Dual or collective leadership is a poor substitute to unity in command. I used to tell my colleagues, ‘No family can stay together without a mukhiya (head), whose authority is unquestionably accepted by all its members. After Deendayalji, Atalji is the mukhiya of our family.’

Here I must also add that Atalji had an accommodative approach towards me. If he knew what my thinking was on a certain issue, and if he did not have serious disagreements over it, he would readily say, Jo Advaniji kehte hain, voh theek hai. (What Advani says is right). Thereafter, the matter under discussion would be immediately clinched.

Throughout the six years of the NDA government, speculation about the non-existent Atal-Advani conflict’ was a favourite pastime for few in the media and political circles. Atalji refuted this speculation on numerous occasions, both within Parliament and outside. In an interview given to India Today, he was asked: ‘How are your relations with Home Minister L.K. Advani? Is the BJP pulling in different directions?’ His reply was forthright: ‘I talk to Advaniji each day. We consult each other daily. Yet you people speculate. Like a record stuck in a groove. One more time, let me say there is no problem. When there is, I’ll let you know’.

In his nearly six decades of political life, Atalji has influenced his thoughts and ideologies not only on his Vichar-Parivar; but his wit, presence of mind, political foresight and strategy is respected in all political parties as well. His amazing oratory skills have left an impact not only in the Parliament, but on every platform of public life. His thunderous voice continues to reverberate in the Parliament. Atalji never hesitated to voice the opinion of the man standing on the lowest rung of the society. He presented many bills in the Parliament, for the welfare of this common man. It gives me great pleasure that the original forms of the bills presented by Atalji in the Parliament and the debate on them, after being edited by Appa Ghatate, are being published. With the publication of this edition, viewpoints of Atalji and his contemporary Parliamentarians will be available for generations to come.

Before I embarked upon Jana Chetna Yatra on 11 Oct, 2011, I met Atalji the previous evening and sought his blessings. In comparison to all of my previous Yatras, the thing I missed the most in this yatra was Atalji’s active participation due to his bad health. But with his support and blessings, this yatra, aimed at eradicating corruption and bringing back the black money stashed in Swiss Banks and abroad, also received overwhelming response in every part of Bharat.

Atalji, I and my whole party have been against rampant corruption and black money; and other evils in the society. The bills presented by Atalji show his determination and willpower to go all out to support the cause of a common man. My heartfelt good wishes to Atalji for a long and healthy life.

(From the Foreword of the book ‘Atal Bihari Vajpayee : A Constructive Parliamentarian’)