Meaning of being Atal Behari Vajpayee

Arun Srivastava

While India grieves the demise of its beloved statesman-leader Atal Behari Vajpayee, political leaders, ruling elites and the corporate board rooms are weighing its implications for the electoral prospects of BJP and Modi in the 2019Lok Sabha polls. This is particularly in view of the perception that Modi is losing his touch and charisma.
Modi, who was particularly popular with the urban middle class till a year ago, has been finding it a tough proposition to convince the people of his continued appeal. There has been a widespread feeling that he would have to rise above narrow politics to achieve this. Also that Amit Shah’s arrogant style of functioning would harm him more than anything else.
The arrogance was visible even at the cremation of Vajpayee’s body at SmritiSthal. Television visuals of the proceedings showed Amit Shah pulled L K Advani to a chair close to him while remaining seated in his chair. He was sitting with his right leg on the left and the right foot pointing towards the chair on which Advani was sitting.
While Vajpayee could reach out to the heart of the common people through his oratory and conduct, in sharp contrast Modi through his abrasive mannerisms and hate speeches alienated the people. It is an open secret how Modi insulted senior leaders like Shatrughnan Sinha and Yashwant Sinha.
Vajpayee was a true democrat, who respected even the opposition leaders but Modi has been just the opposite. No doubt electoral compulsions have forced Modi to wear the moderate and liberal face of Atalji, but with his populism and lies it would be difficult for him to ring true. Although some BJP leaders have been trying to portray him as the worthy successor of Vajpayee, the game is least likely to succeed.
Modi is the antithesis to the ideological line of Vajpayee. There are fundamental differences between the two even in the RSS ideological line that the two followed. While Vajpayee supported the line of Deoras, Modi subscribes to the Golwalkar school. Modi would certainly like to capitalise on the Vajpayee legacy. But his pretentions of being a democrat fail to cut ice as he pursues the politics of hatred.
If Modi has been a true follower of Vajpayee’s political philosophy, he would not have refused to resign as the chief minister of Gujarat following his suggestion to abide by Rajdharma. Also, his rabidly anti-Nehruvian posturing does not go with the line of Vajpayee, who had high praise for Nehru. Modi’s four-year rule has been marked by a hate Nehru campaign.
No doubt Vajpayee could not prevent Advani from wrecking the social unity and peace in the country in the wake of the demolition of Babri Masjid, but on his part he continued to strive for peace and brotherhood. He tried to assuage the feelings of the Muslims. But Modi never tried to reach out to the Muslims. In contrast he pushed the Muslims away from the mainstream. His action in not giving tickets to even a single Muslim in the UP assembly election is a clear manifestation of his hatred for the Muslims.
Vajpayee’s greatness was in his willingness to accept follies and failures. This is out and out outlandish perception for Modi. His aversion to accept mistakes is well-known. Primarily, this is what alienates him from academics and intellectuals. Vajpayee during his last years had virtually turned into a forgotten soul. But on the 16th August he came alive like a twister from his own shadow to make everyone realise how close he was to the hearts of Indians.
Suddenly the façade of Modi consciously created around him during the four years of his rule has started cracking. It was an irony that while Modi was desperately trying to present himself as the public face of Vajpayee and his philosophy, BJP hooligans were on a rampage attacking Swami Agnivesh. This underlined how Modi succeeded in indoctrinating BJP’s rank and file with the politics of hatred and violence.
To expect Modi to follow the principles of liberal democracy and pluralism, which were the defining ideology and philosophy for Vajpayee would be naive. Rather than liberty and equality, Modi has been practicing the policy of authority and intolerance, the basic constituents of fascism. (IPA)

Saturday, 1 September, 2018