Trib­ute to Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee

End Of An En­light­ened Era

India Business Journal - - CONTENTS -

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

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