Today is the second death anniversary of Bharat Ratna and three-time Prime Minister of India, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The entire nation bows to him. Always grounded, he stood tall in terms of principle, practice and ideology. Whoever has been associated with him would never work with a narrow mind in politics. While in Opposition, he made a special place in the minds of politicians and activists of every party in the country. Despite being in Opposition, he was always more popular than the leaders of the ruling party. He made a place in the mind of Jawaharlal Nehru and other political counterparts through his fiery oratory, from the streets to Parliament.
I had the good fortune of working with him closely as a political-social worker and journalist, drawing even closer to him because I was a resident of Gwalior. Gwalior was Atalji’s birth place and he started as a political activist from there. Several places in the city have an Atalji connection. Even today, present and former students of Maharani Laxmibai College proudly say that we are from the institution where Atalji used to study.
Atalji was also the editor of Swadesh at one time. He had an ideological attachment with this newspaper. He was fond of all us who worked for the paper. Another reason for his affection towards me was that I studied with Atalji’s nephews, Anoop Mishra and Deepak Vajpayee, in college. Atalji was a simple person. Also, the kind of atmosphere that exists around leaders in the name of security was not there at that time. In fact, he would often take the Shatabdi Express from Gwalior to Delhi.
On his death anniversary, I find it necessary to tell the people of India that Atalji’s birth place at Pataur, Kamal Singh Bagh in Shinde Ki Chawani, Gwalior, remained unchanged till he became Prime Minister. Such a unique example of honesty has never been seen in Indian politics. He would be found eating carrot pudding and mangodi (a lentil savoury) of Haridwar at the Gwalior trade fair, even when he was the leader of the Opposition.
Atalji was originally an activist within the party, despite being one of its tallest leaders. In 1996, as the Leader of the Opposition, he came to the Deen Dayal Parisar hall – the state BJP office in Bhopal — and addressed the training session:
“Worker friends! Do not be surprised at my address. I know that prominent leaders of the party are present in this training session. MPs are also seated. All the MLA brothers and sisters are also participating in the session. I deliberately addressed everyone as a worker. We claim that our party is a party of workers. The leader is also a worker. He is known as a leader because of his special responsibility, but his foundation is to be a worker… MPs will not always be there. Some people change parties.. but the position of the worker is such that it cannot be changed. Our right to be a worker cannot be taken away. The reason is that this right is our earned right… it is not an honour given above that it can be taken back.”
He added: ” According to their posts, workers are recognised, but this identity remains for a limited time. No official of the organisation holds office for more than four years. This is not under any particular rule, it is a tradition we follow strongly. There are many political parties in the country. There is neither regular membership nor election. He/she, who once became an official, never talks about removal. Presidents of many political parties become permanent presidents. A campaign has to be done to remove them, but lice do not creep on their ears, they do not budge. We do not have this here.”
Atalji used to say that we believe in democracy. In all walks of life, we are supporters of the democratic system. We also run our political party in a democratic way. Membership occurs at fixed times. The membership of old members is renewed, new members are created. For the expansion of the organisation, new people are required.
Atalji thought that it is one thing to have new members for expanding the party and another thing to increase membership to capture the party. When a distorted mindset is used to assert authority over the party instead of expanding it, chances of dubious practises – fake memberships, for instance – are rife. Membership fees are credited incorrectly. This has a negative impact on the health of the party.
In that training session, Atalji said that the BJP had succeeded in increasing its influence and power in the last few years because of its ideology. Throwing light on this ideology, he said Deen Dayal Upadhyaya was a great thinker and a skilled organiser. His forte was presenting old thinking in a manner that made it relevant to the current era. He said that over time, the kind of challenges faced by a party changes — new problems arise while some old problems come in new forms. In order to deal with such a situation, new interpretations and arrangements have to be made without jettisoning the party’s basic thinking. He further said that we want to establish an ideal state. That is why initially we talked about the state of religion. Later, in light of the Ayodhya movement, we put the vision of Ram Rajya in front of people as our goal. There is no difference between Dharma Rajya and Rama Rajya. Whilst performing Bhoomi Poojan at Ram Janmabhoomi in Ayodhya on August 5, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reaffirmed Atalji’s views stating clearly that Rama Rajya has been the message of our culture for thousands of years.
Atalji said that when the Jan Sangh was formed, the world was divided into communism and capitalism. Both were rejected by Indian thought. He presented the party’s ideology, stating that we do not want the consolidation of state power and economic power but a decentralised system. He was very categorical that communism talked about freedom from exploitation and the disintegration of the state, but in practice, it stood as a reward for centralisation. Knowing the failure of both capitalism and communism, he cited the importance of Deen Dayal Upadhyayaji’s philosophy of integral humanism.
Atalji believed that the BJP had emerged as a national alternative. Earlier, there was an anti-Congress wind. Now, it is happening against the BJP. This aggregation will not last. He said we should understand that if our progress is hindered it will be due to our own shortcomings, not because of our opponents. Truly, today, the future of the country is connected with the BJP, whether we get a majority or not, whether our opponents want it or not. If we fall behind on this historic occasion, give up, get caught up in petty disputes, the coming generations will never forgive us. We should consider the situation of the country and the needs of the organisation as a worker, behave as a worker. No matter how much power we get or the heights we scale, the workers and the people who brought us there should never be out of sight. Our success is certain. And there is a need to behave properly, according to ideology and humanity. Atalji’s address given in the training session and his every sentence inspires us even today. If we keep contemplating his thoughts on his death anniversary, we will not deviate from the right path nor will we allow the country to do so.
The writer is BJP National Vice President and former MP