The story of Independent India cannot be Complete without mentioning the name of India’s illustrious Former Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Born in a middle-class family, Vajpayee’s tryst with Indian politics began in August 1942, when he was arrested for 23 days during the Quit India movement. He was associated with the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (R.S.S.) since his student days and served his early days as a Pracharak of RSS. In 1957 he was first elected as member of Lok Sabha. From that juncture, there was no looking back for Vajpayee.
Vajpayee’s oratorical skills made Nehru predict that Vajpayee would someday become India’s Prime Minister, one has to give it to Nehru for having a good eye for talent. Vajpayee was detained during Emergency (1975-77). He, as the Minister of External Affairs in 1977 became the first person to deliver a speech in the U.N. General Assembly in Hindi. No one before him volunteered to do so and not many after him dared to do that. By early 1980s, the world started recognizing him as a statesman.
One year of Courage and Conviction
Vajpayee’s first term as Prime Minister lasted for just 13 days. But he rose again, and his rise proved the country’s democratic structures were not weak. He was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the second time. The world called his brief second term ‘one year of courage and conviction’. This was the time when the world started recognizing India as a growing power. It was during this period that India entered the elite group of nuclear-nations following a series of successful nuclear tests at Pokharan in May 1998. Unmoved by the criticism of the Western Superpwers, Vajpayee called it an emboldening step to secure nation’s security. He made it clear to the world that India would not be the first to use nuke weapon in a war but will do everything possible to deter her enemies.
With the historic inauguration of the Delhi-Lahore bus service in 1999, Vajpayee began his peace mission aimed at resolving conflicts with Pakistan. But true to its nature Pakistan betrayed his gesture of friendship, which led to the Kargil war. But India overpowered the intruders and made them flee from Indian soil.
Vajpayee led NDA government was formed ending a period of political instability and he became the first non-Congress PM to complete a term of full 5 years. His third term saw many ups and downs. One of the biggest ebbs of his career was the him succumbing to extreme public pressure for the safe release of the hostages in Hijack. The NDA government was forced to exchange terrorists Maulana Masood Azhar, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh and Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar for passengers.
Vajpayee however, was a champion of reforms. During this term, Vajpayee brought many domestic economic and infrastructural reforms, including encouraging the private sector and foreign investments, reducing governmental waste, encouraging research and development and privatisation of some government owned corporations.
Golden Era for Road Development
The ambitious task of connecting many of the major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres of India, Golden Quadrilateral, was called an utter waste of tax payers money back then in 2000. Today we know how important this highway has become for our economic integration. An integrated India is must for India’s economic development and Vajpayee realised this very early. The out of box, Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) aimed at linking the 5 lakh villages of India to cities by all-weather roads was also an initiative of his government. In fact, this regime constructed 50% of national highways laid in last 30 years.
Vajpayee’s policies paved way for a very robust economic growth, with special emphasis on Special Economic Zones, giving telecom spectrum to private players for quality service to customers, ending the monopoly of VSNL and forcing it to compete with other players in a fair way rather than relying on the tag of a state-owned giant.
This beginning of the liberalisation of India’s telecom policy. Thanks to him, India is currently the world’s second-largest telecommunications market with a subscriber base of 1.05 billion.
In fact, the idea of “One nation, one tax”, was first mooted during his term.
“It’s the economy, stupid”
Economics unfortunately alone cannot not win votes. A confident Vajpayee dissolved the house before the completion of its term. But his slogan of “India Shinning” could not muster much support and BJP was forced to sit in opposition. Accepting moral responsibility for the defeat, he decided not to take up the position of the Leader of the Opposition. Atal Bihari Vajpayee announced his retirement from politics.
A steadfast Hinduwadi, Vajpayee successfully led the coalition of 24 political parties. He always believed that he belonged to all and all belonged to him. Well-known and respected for his love for poetry and as an eloquent speaker, Vajpayee was never again seen addressing public again. This is the story of a parliamentarian elected from four different States at different times; a spotless meticulous statesman of the country; an orator; non-controversial heart-throb of the country.
The 1 thing for which the Nation will forever be indebted to Atal Bihari Vajpayee
But, more than his vision, his economic policies, his tough stand with respect to Kargil War, and Nuclear Tests, there is one thing that this nation should thank Vajpayee for. He was the one who brought Congress down for the first time and completed full 5 years as the PM of the Country. In a country which was though democratic in its principle but mostly witnessed one party rule, Vajpayee has been credited for giving the country the concept of bipolar polity and thereby brought much needed change to Indian politics. Vajpayee gave other political parties a hope that they also stand a chance. Vajpayee revived democracy and more than anything else Vajpayee created the groundwork for people like PM Modi to take over and lead the country towards peace, prosperity and progress.
Thanks to efforts of the ruling party 25th December is now celebrated as Good Governance Day.