President Pranab Mukherjee today extolled the “personal touch” former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee imparted to his interactions with opposition leaders. Terming Vajpayee as a leader in the Nehruvian mould, the President said he had many “sterling” human qualities and always combined courtesy with political sagacity.
“He was an able politician who added a personal touch to his interaction with all opposition leaders. He successfully led an NDA coalition comprising different parties with leaders holding divergent views as Prime Minister for over six years,” Mukherjee said during his speech at the India Today conclave.
Mukherjee recalled an incident when Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister, came over to him in Parliament and requested for going soft on Defence Minister George Fernandes, who was ailing.
“I was startled and told him – Prime Minister, you could have sent a word to me. I would have come to you. Atalji responded – This is a small matter. We are all colleagues.
“He then made a special request. Do not be aggressive in your criticism of George Fernandes. He appears strong but is suffering from some serious health issues. Aggressive criticism may worsen his situation,” Vajpayee told Mukherjee.
The President said he was touched by this personal gesture and concern for the welfare of Fernandes. “I immediately stopped my attacks on the floor of the House,” he said, adding Vajpayee was one Prime Minister whose style of working was “completely different”.