Editor’s Note: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away today at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi. This piece was originally published by Deepak Venkateswaran on March 13, 2014.
Bharat Ratna (meaning the Gem of India) is the highest civilian honour bestowed upon any Indian citizen. Over the years, a number of eminent personalities accepted as the most brilliant and prolific minds in their respective fields have been given this honour. Ranging from Dr. Kalam to CNR Rao and from Sardar Patel to Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, were all conferred upon this honour. Also, 2013 saw a big landmark when it comes to awarding the Bharat Ratna. It was given to Sachin Tendulkar, who became to first ever sportsperson to be conferred with this title.
Amidst all the admiration and sense of pride, there exists a whole lot of names that truly deserve this honour. A few of them namely Maj. Dhyanchand, Rajiv Dixit and Atal Bihari Vajpayee (the 10th and one of the finest prime ministers India has ever had). While India is now busy marching forward to the 2014 general elections to decide its fate for the next five years, it is important to bring to light why I strongly feel Atal Bihari Vajpayee deserves the Bharat Ratna:
It is unarguably accepted that Atalji was a man of immense moral fibre, integrity and truthfulness, who put his duty and commitment toward the nation above everything else. This is evident from the fact that he was respected by his political rivals as much as he was by his own party and cadre. The Bharatiya Janata Party may or may not have enjoyed a stronghold at that point of time in India, but Vajpayee certainly had a place in everybody’s hearts.
Unlike his political rivals, Atalji was never after power. He always wanted a strong and decisive government and a good governance system. He (apart from Indira Gandhi) has had the distinction of taking oath as a prime minister thrice – the first time for 13 days, followed by 13 months, and then for a full term of five years ( 1999-2004). However, his government did not try to lobby during the vote of no-confidence or when it was overthrown, as we know it lost the motion by one vote which could have easily been bought. Such was the honesty and truthfulness of this man.
Vajpayee was a brilliant administrator who efficiently ruled while held office. The economy was thriving at 8-8.5% growth rate stably during his regime. The NDA regime, from 1998 to 2004, saw the birth of a number of innovative projects and schemes which even have an impact today – the Golden Quadrilateral, the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, the setting up of NHAI, the setting up of a separate department for the development of Northeast, the birth of the POTA Act (which the incumbent UPA government removed after coming to power), and so on. Vajpayeeji had a way of connecting with the crowd by his charisma and oratory skills.
During his tenure as the prime minister, Vajpayee continuously made efforts to maintain a peaceful relationship with Pakistan by initiating and organising various activities such as “The Lahore Bus Yatra”, The Agra Summit, and increasing trade links amongst others. But on the other hand, he never put India down as a weak partner. He proved this through his strong stand during the Kargil Insurgency operation in 1999, under the name “Operation Vijay” that successfully countered the intruders who had breached the line of control (LOC).
Vajpayee, a charismatic leader and orator, was a poet at heart. His numerous contributions to Hindi literature in the form of his poems cannot be forgotten as they carry wonderful messages about life. His poems on India are an unforgettable feather in the cap of Hindi literature. Few of his notable works include “Unchaai”, “Bharat ki Kavita”, and “ Kya Khoya kya Paya”.
Vajpayeeji, above all, was a gentleman who always had time for people and listened to their grievances even at his residence. He was a man who never cared for personal achievements, and a leader who respected his opposition as much as he respected his ruling alliances. He was accepted globally as a leader. In short, he was a perfect blend of a leader, a poet, an orator, and a good human being.
There are a number of personalities who deserve the Bharat Ratna and it shouldn’t be too late to honour these transformers/visionaries (like in the case of Sardar Patel). Undoubtedly, Atal Bihari Vajpayee should be honoured with a Bharat Ratna. All I wish is that the government coming to power in 2014 performs this due action.
Editor’s note: Vajpayee was honoured with the Bharat Ratna in 2014.