Union Minister Arun Jaitley today remembered former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a “quintessential gentleman” who accepted criticism and valued consensus as he was a “product” of parliamentary democracy.
Vajpayee, 93, passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here last evening after a prolonged illness.
Jaitley, who was a minister in the Vajpayee government, said: “Atalji’s demise is referred to by many as end of an era. I, however, consider it as a continuation of the era of which he was one who laid the foundation.”
In a blog post titled ‘Atalji, the Quintessential Gentleman ‘How he made a difference?’, the minister said the essential aspect of Vajpayee’s political journey, true to his name ‘Atal’ was determination.
“In the world’s largest democracy only the Congress Party dominated in the first few decades. Atalji created an alternative, which in the last two decades became larger and bigger than the Congress. Along with (L K) Advaniji, he created a second line leaders both in the Centre and the states,” he said.
Vajpayee, Jaitley said, was always open to ideas and gave priority to national interest.
“…(he) was always at ease in dealing with both friends and opponents and never allowed himself to get into any petty controversy,” said the minister, who is recuperating after a kidney transplant surgery.
The Pokhran Nuclear Test in 1998 was a defining moment of the Vajpayee’s government and he also went out of the way to work for peace with Pakistan.
“But when the need arose, he inflicted a severe blow to it in Kargil. Both Pokhran and Kargil were his high points.
“On the economic front, he was a liberaliser. National Highway, rural roads, better infrastructure, a new telecom policy which was pragmatic, a new electricity law are evidence of this,” Jaitley said.
Jaitley further wrote that the poet in Vajpayee also created a dreamer.
“Atalji was a democrat. His political style was liberal. He accepted criticism. He was a product of parliamentary democracy and, therefore, valued consensus. He bore no malice…He communicated even with those who disagreed. Whether in opposition or the government, his attitude never changed. He was an iconic communicator unparalleled in recent history,” Jaitley’s blog said.
Jaitley also recalled that in Parliament, Vajpayee was heard in pin drop silence and in public meetings audiences waited for hours before he could arrive.
“His oration was always blended with humour. His ability for an instant response was unmatched. His choice of words, his turn of phrases, the poetry that he injected in his expression, gave him the ability to even explain the most complicated issue in a simple language,” the minister said.
(With inputs from PTI)