Tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee from Unknown Indians

Dr. V. K . Bahuguna

In the evening of 16th August 2018 with the demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mother India lost one of its brightest Sons ever and a man endowed with finest human virtues. The country this evening fell into a pall of sad ness best explained by the Prime Minister Modi in his  emotional tweet as if the nation had plunged into a state of emptiness and there is no way to get out of the darkness. Everything begins with Shunya (Zero as the shunya is known in English) and ends in Shunya the void. The former Prime Minister Vajpayee's death brings back the gloomy atmosphere in the entire country witnessed by the nation in the death of Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Lal Nehru and other freedom fathers long ago.  However, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the best personification of an Indian wedded entirely to the Indian value system with his intellect, lovable and amiable persona and brilliance radiating allaround like sun rays radiating to all directions wherever and whenever he was present and that is the great void he had left in the country.  He was one such personality who is born once in a century and with full grace of God as if they descend into earth to fulfill a particular role in the society. India today lost the tallest leader of present generation and one of the best Prime Ministers the generation born after post-independence has seen. As announced by the government the nation will mourn his death for 7 days.

 There will be several tributes to this great leaderfrom his colleagues and eminent people and from political leaders of all hues but there are unknown Indian who loved him dearly as the best public face of India. The civil servants are the one such faceless people who work behind the scenes tirelessly especially those who like this writer not the members of Delhi's elite club of civil servants (who rub shoulders with big leaders and act their years and eyes) pay their tribute to this great personality and touch upon their experience of working in the Central Government during his regime. 

The country during Vajpayee regime from 1998 to 2004 had seen big changes that have brought revolutionary changes in Indian social and economic infrastructure. Politically, he was the master of bringing disparaging political groups under one umbrella best exemplified by the way he ran his government and proved that in Indian democracy true federalism had arrived though in such situations he had to make a few compromises in the larger interests of the country. Because of his political convictions he was admired by all including his political foes.He was a shrewd administrator with uncanny ability to see the future and act accordingly. On diplomatic front he had taken all initiative that can be taken to bring India and Pakistan close and solving the Kashmir issue if he had come back to power perhaps he was the only leader in the subcontinent who could take the people with him in solving this vexed problem. He was also the first Foreign Minister after 1962 war when in the Morarji Desai's Janata Party led cabinet he visited China and broke the ice with that country and after that what has happened in Sino-India relations is a history admired by many experts. He could also show a remarkably mature leadership in the Kargil war, his Lahore visit by Bus and also after the aftermath of 2001 attack on the Parliament. On controversy of dual membership in Janata Party he had the gumption to break and revive the BJP with his Jan Sangh colleagues. But his decision to go for a nuclear test in 1998 soon after becoming the Prime Minister will be written in golden words in the history of India as one of the boldest decision taken by any Prime Minister. He was also the first Indian leader to address the UN general assembly in Hindi

The North-eastern states have been facing negligence and during 1996 to 1998 all the three Prime Ministers i.e. HD Deve GowdaInder Kumar Gujrat and Vajpayee governments announced that 10% of the budget of central government will be spent on North-east. It was however, only under Atalji's tenure that this became a reality as this writer himself witnessed during his stint in the Ministry of Environment & Forests as Inspector General of Forests that frantic attempts were made by all ministries to submit figures to the PMO on the achievements. Till then no one had sympathy for doing something extra for the North-east. The then Marxist Chief Minister of Tripura Shri Manik Sarkar during his interaction with this writer in 2004 was fulsome on praise for the then NDA government and the Prime Minister for helping Tripura in a very liberal way financially for infrastructure development and border fencing even granting one time forestry clearance for fencing the Indo-Bangla border an unusual steps taken for the first time in the national interests. The second episode this writer would like to narrate is of February 2004 when a delegation of Madhya Pradesh just before the assembly elections in February 2004 headed by then Chef Minister Digvijay Singh met the Prime Minister in presence of the Ministry officials and demanded handing over the forest lands under Joint forest management to Panchayats. He very deftly deflected the discussions in a very amiable and refused to barter away the forestland in such a manner. Later on a notification was issued on 4th February2004 to recognize the Forest Rights of the Tribal Communities which ultimately acted as pre-curser of the present Forest right Act 2006.  Though in the hind sight many people feel that the Vajpayee government notification was more pragmatic and solution finding as it had the economic upliftment through livelihood generation as core of the tribal peoples disputed landsettlement policy. 

The country during his regime witnessed his astute farsightedness in the construction of Golden quadrilaterals which led to cascading economic growth and a revolution in the Highways and road construction and equally complimented by telecom revolution and an unprecedented automobile growth by opening the sector bringing the country in the elite nation's category on these sectors and ultimately Indian growth rate of more than 8%. 

India mourns the death of this able son who is an example for other political leaders to follow and the best tribute will be if the politicians of this country follows his way of thinking and dealing with issues in the context of overall governance. Rest in peace sir but Indian like to say 'Return if possible'. 

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