Tribute to Atal Bihari Vajpayee
End Of An Enlightened Era
Lgreat ast month, many tall leaders of Indian polity departed, bringing an era of
statesmanship to an end. If the demise of former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M Karunanidhi and former Lok Sabha Speaker and former CPI (M) leader saddened India, the passing away of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former prime minister and one of the tallest BJP leaders, left a void in the Indian polity.
Consensus, dialogue and democracy were really the essence of Mr Vajpayee. His foremost achievement in public life has been to successfully end singleparty predominance and create bipolar polity in India. For the first, non-Congress prime minister who ran a difficult coalition with myriad partners for a full term, Mr Vajpayee has left his mark in India's political history.
He will also be remembered for taking India's policy of nuclear deterrence to its logical conclusion by conducting the nuclear tests in Pokhran in May 1998. That invited global ire and sanctions on India's technology sectors, but it also paved the way for the Indo-US nuclear deal. His foreign policy pushed India ahead in opening up to the world, on its own terms, as a nuclear power.
If Mr Vajpayee's persona nudged the politics of his party into larger spaces, his stint as prime minister will be remembered for large transitions. His legacy will endure in the daring leaps of imagination in infrastructure policy and for a new vocabulary on the congealed conflict of Kashmir. Insaniyat, Jamhuriyat, Kashmiriyat (humanism, democracy and Kashmiri ethos) were once prescribed by Mr Vajpayee as the contours within which the hope for resolving the bloody conflict in Kashmir rested. The same contours hold good even today.
Mr Vajpayee proved to be a bold reformer, who never hesitated to think out of the box. He carried on the spirit of economic reforms introduced by the P V Narasimha Rao government in 1991. When Manmohan Singh took over from Mr Vajpayee in 2004, the economy was in a great shape. The GDP rate was above 8 per cent, inflation was below 4 per cent and foreign exchange reserves were overflowing.
It speaks volumes about Mr Vajpayee's administrative skills, considering the results his government produced in one of the most difficult of times. Amid the terrorist attack on the Parliament on the one side and the post-9/11 turbulence and effects of the 1997 East Asian crisis, his government succeeded in keeping its sense of direction and purpose going unabated.
The Vajpayee government helped lay the foundations for high growth in the later UPA years by launching the Rs 60,000-crore national highways programme - the Golden Quadrilateral, connecting Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai through a network of highways. Similarly, the Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna was planned as a network of all-weather roads for unconnected villages across India.
Mr Vajpayee's commitment in reducing the government's role in running businesses and industry was reflected in the formation of a separate disinvestment ministry. The most important disinvestment decisions were those of BALCO, Hindustan Zinc, Indian Petrochemicals Corporation and VSNL. These initiatives of the government, though not free from controversies, set the tone for the government's role in future. The New Telecom Policy unveiled by his government unleashed the telecom revolution in India. It was his government's revenue-sharing arrangement for telecom companies, which replaced the fixed licence fee regime, which made mobile phone affordable.
A poet, philosopher, politician and statesman, Mr Vajpayee was above all a great human being. In his demise, India has truly lost one of the most precious Ratnas.
It speaks volumes about Mr Vajpayee's administrative skills, considering the results his government produced in one of the most difficult of times. Amid the terrorist attack on the Parliament on the one side and the post9/11 turbulence and effects of the 1997 East Asian crisis, his government succeeded in keeping its sense of direction and purpose going unabated.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee: One of Bharat's precious Ratnas