In the death of Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee today, India has lost the last of its Nehruvian leaders and the BJP its only statesman ever.
His heydays were when I thought the BJP could become a lasting alternative to the Congress.
When he became India’s Prime Minister in 1996, I had already completed two years in Singapore. But I was still an Indian citizen and was confident he would make a huge difference and transform the country’s polity.
When Advani Plotted His Own Downfall: Alas, that was not to be as his hardline deputy LK Advani brought down the Bahri Masjid and plotted his own downfall by standing with Narendra Modi even when Mr Vajpayee wanted the then Gujarat Chief Minister’s ouster following the 2002 carnage.
Therein lay Mr Vajpayee’s biggest failing – a lack of resoluteness in enforcing his will. Despite representing a party with an extreme ideology, Vajpayee remained always benevolent, striving to remove hostilities for religious harmony with an elusive vision.
Missing His Towering Influence: Still, it is a pity India missed his gentle, yet towering, influence during the last four years with the current Modi-led establishment dismantling every institution that was sacrosanct to the country.
He considered none as enemies, not even Pakistan. His warmth towards Pakistan was met with backstabbing in the form of Kargil, reminding us of how Nehru’s overtures towards China left him crestfallen with the 1962 war.
I did not like it when he spoke in Hindi at the United Nations despite his proficiency in English. Hindi does not and will not represent India in its entirety.
Yet, as I listen to his speeches in Hindi that are being aired as a tribute to his literary prowess, I cannot help being mesmerised by it even if Hindi is like German to me.
There can never be another Vajpayee in India, a staunch Hindu who refused to succumb to majoritarianism. May his soul Rest In Peace!
G Joslin Vethakumar