Vajpayee was a fakir in true sense of the word!

Exclusive for TIO by Ninad, Copy Edited By Adam Rizvi:  There is a section of media trying to put down Vajpayee as a Sangh loyalist who was essentially a Hindutvavadi in disguise and who allowed communal activities to happen right under his nose, as a party leader, and as a PM.

Vinod Dua said that Khuswant Singh believed that obituaries in India are a joke and should be discarded because Indians tend to speak only positive things about a dead person and refuse to reveal his weaknesses. And then he goes on to put Vajpayee down by outlining all his weaknesses. That’s really sad. Because when Khuswant Singh died in this country, the journalists focused on what a good man he was. Dua seems to have forgotten this fact.

To people like Dua, I would like to say that in Indian culture everything is forgiven after death. Even the worst things that a person has done in his life are forgiven and used as a lesson for others not to repeat. That Indians don’t learn from such mistakes is a different issue altogether. Which is why I would advise Dua and other critics not to use Atalji to settle political scores with BJP. Because all his life, Atalji was above politics.

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Vajpayee was no ordinary man. I loved him. And I am absolutely certain he had his weaknesses worth criticizing. But today is not the time to show my impartiality. I would rather showcase Vajpayee as a soul who was burdened by the complexities that life presented him as a person and as a politician. He was a wrong man in politics. He was too nice and too sensitive to be one. But fate made him become a party leader and a PM and he was probably weak enough not to say no.

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Which is probably why he wrote –
दो दिन मिले उपहार मे,
घाटो के व्यापार मे
क्षण क्षण का हिसाब लु,
या निधी शेष लुटाऊ मैं
राह कौनसी जाऊ मैं?

Power is a bewitching proposition and very few in the world have the strength to decline with a firm No. Vajpayee wasn’t one of them. And which is the reason why despite disliking the hate and jealousy of politics, he could not desist the benefits of power that came with it.

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Vajpayee used his goodness to change things with the political power he was handed over. Whether is it the National Highways Project or the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana that provided motorable roads to the remotest corners of this country. In 2001, he launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a scheme that has single-handedly transformed the access and quality of school education in this country. The Pokhran Test he undertook got an American President to visit India after 22 years. He scaled up the telecom and IT revolution in this country to reach the masses. Hundreds of millions of jobs have been created by these sectors over the past 20 years. Vajpayee was the man who achieved this magic.

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Vajpayee was a fakir in the true sense of the word. He was a man who rose above communal and caste politics even though he called himself a staunch Hindu. He believed in the power of Hinduism to change the culture and ethos of this country as it aspired to be a developed nation. That some of his colleagues mistook it for religious supremacy and misused it cannot be ignored. We could fault him for not taking a clear stand against the communal behavior of his senior colleagues, but we could not fault him for speaking out against such behavior of his partymen openly.

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But this is not the time to make such comparisons. After Nehru and Shastri, if there is one PM that I absolutely loved and revered, it is Vajpayee. Because what he left behind for this country as a legacy is far more powerful than the few hiccups of his otherwise spotless political career.

May his soul rest in peace. I will miss him.


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Ninad Vengurlekar

The writer Ninad Vengurlekar is Masters in Education Technology, from Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He runs an EdTech start-up and is based out of Mumbai.

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