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What it means to be Vajpayee
Ambivalent yet affable, once commented A G Noorani on Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Taking hiatus from media glare since sometime, Vajpayee’s maverism has been there for all to see.
TWO YEARS AGO, Atal Bihari Vajpayee used to be the cynosure of all eyes. Out of power now, with little dissertation in media, things are falling into place. Here I must confess that I was totally shook by his saleable rhetoric and hailed his mediocre poetic sense. But a look at his ways particularly after the Gujarat carnage; one gets the real Atal Bihari.
The only other prime minister who can come close to the colourful Vajpayee is Indira Gandhi. Till he was at the helm of affairs, he beguiled everyone with his poetic one-liners. He was the mask of secularism to give NDA, nay BJP, all-India nationalistic look. His regime bears testimony to his ambivalent character, which he maintained throughout. After the shocking defeat in the 14th Lok Sabha elections, he rightly pointed out that Gujarat riots were responsible for the party’s defeat. His party quickly rebuffed him for pointing finger at their ‘laboratory’.
Before the Gujarat massacre he was concocted as ‘right man in a wrong party’. But the myth was demystified after that. Not a close scrutiny but a general look at his statements reveal his ideology. A product of Sangh Parivar, Vajpayee had not acquired power on its behalf in order to dilute its ideology or foil its programme.
Seven weeks after the violence broke out against Muslims, Vajpayee went to Ahmedabad (4th April), and Rajdharm Ka Palan Kare was a famous saleable rhetoric then. It also irked the then Chief Justice of India V.N. Khare who remarked on the Gujarat issue: What is Raj dharma if the state cannot protect its own people.
Rather than visiting refugee camps he visited the burnt carriage at Godhra as if it was sacred pilgrimage. Of course it was for him, and for the BJP. And it was an issue after Babri Masjid, which could pave way for electoral gains. On April 2002, Vajpayee fired his first salvo on the annulment of Muslims in Gujarat, he said, “the entire responsibility on this issue (Gujarat) was put on me… I felt that holding state assembly elections would be more beneficial.”
Beneficial to whom! Gujarat gave BJP overwhelming majority. His party was quick to grasp the situation by threatening or declaring that Gujarat experiment will be repeated all over India. Vajpayee never uttered a word against this hatred and willy-nilly campaign.
“What happened after the Godhra incident is reprehensible, but the issue is, who started it?” said the affable prime minister Mr Vajpayee, who initiated it. Even the plague, the earthquake; the cyclonic storms have something in association with the ISI! ISI means Pakistan. Pakistan means Muslims. Muslims mean terror. This is what he said, “wherever there are, Muslims do not want to live with others. Instead of living peacefully, they want to preach and propagate their religion by creating fear and terror in the mindsets of others.” Well-said Mr Vajpayee.
While the pogrom against Muslims was going on full scale, Vajpayee along with his deputy was busy in meeting the deadline of VHP for shifting the carved stone to Ayodhya to build a temple there! Strange and incongruous it seemed when they met RSS leaders on March 15: not what their activists were perpetuating in Gujarat but for Ayodhya issue! Conseil des sages (Council of sages) discussed such obsolete issue. Speaking on the January 13, 2004, to large Muslim audience he said to Gujarati Muslims to forgive. Forgive, said he, “one becomes greater person by forgiving.” Of course he can say because for him the reports were all “exaggerated”. For him no sister was molested, no mother was gang-raped and then charred to death.
Come the result of elections 2004 and Vajpayee, the maverick, the right man in a wrong party booms again with his uncanny taciturn speech. Speaking to the press on June 12, he told them, “One impact of the violence was that we lost the elections. The BJP’s handling of Gujarat was not wrong.” Next day he emphatically raises his voice of removing the Nero of Gujarat. True to his image of contradicting yet standing tall. Ambivalent yet affable. He may now rue the fact that technically he could not be called the first non-Congress PM to complete his tenure at the office.
In this connection, A G Noorani aptly sums up his personality. “If Hindutva alone had consumed him, he would have been another colourless Advani. If he had discarded it, he would have attained greatness. But Indian politics would then have lost a complex and colourful figure. He remains Atal Bihari Vajpayee — ideologue and conciliator, a crafty politician who uses rhetoric to enable and mislead, one who constantly invites criticism but is hypersensitive and finds criticism very painful. He is not lofty; but he is not common either.”

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This article is about evaluating Vajpayee from a muslim angle- certainly not a liberal and balanced muslim's view. Had Vajpayee said that Godhra was a conspiracy and what followed Godhra was a pre-plenned attack by Modi's government on muslims, he would be named as a secular Hindu. But unfortunately these are not the entire facts. What happened in Gujarat would put every balanced Hindu to shame. Brutatlity, oppression and injustice against any Indian of whatever religion, color or faith is a crime against humanity and should be condemned by all of us. While most Hindus did say this as a result of which Gujarat became an international news against India, not a single muslim did condemn attack on the railway coach at Godhra which started the unfortunate event. In perspective not a single muslim in India even condemned the pogrom of Kashmiri Pandits who were subjected to much worse inhuman genocide than Gujarat. And even after their genocide they were hounded out and are warned not to think of coming back to their land.The genocide of Kashmiri Pandits continues to this day and not a single person has been convicted in the murder of about four thousand Pandits, no human rightistists are active, Supreme court has not intervened nor has the National Human Rights Commission, and no outside court has been asked to intervene since these persons are second class citizens and therefore dispensable. Not a single muslim has condemned this genocide against Kashmiri Pandits to this day. If therefore Vajpayee was balanced in his approcah to Gujarat episode and did not act like a pseudo secularist shouting one-sided fables, terming him anti-muslim is totally unfair.
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