By Runjhun Noopur
Atal Bihari Vajpayee kept humour and poetry and all those softer emotions that keep our politics humane, alive – all the emotions that have so thoroughly vanished from our public life. His tenure is a reminder that political ideology notwithstanding, there is a world of difference between being a statesman and playing one.
I was eight when I fell in love with Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
It was around the time when he came to power for the first time in 1996 and went in for a trust vote in a mere 13 days. I rooted for him through the tedious Parliamentary proceedings, waited for his speech like a crazy fan awaits their favorite artists’ performance and cried bitter tears when he lost the trust vote despite rocking a speech that was one of the finest instances of how political discourse should be positioned in a democracy.
Vajpayee came to power again and went on to complete a near full term. That I remember that entire episode like a part of my personal history is a measure of the influence Vajpayee had as my childhood idol and the starring role he rightfully commands in some of my fondest childhood memories.
At ages 8 and 10, it did not matter to me what party came to power (although, even then I was pretty sure I was not a BJP person), so long as it was Vajpayee who became the leader of the nation. Given how BJP won all the elections in those times based on this “vyaktiwad” (worship of a personality) across country, I was not alone in that sentiment, however naïve and childish it may seem.
I was driving down the Bandra-Worli sea-link yesterday when I saw the Indian flag flying half-mast. And just like that, all the grief that I’d been keeping at bay, hit me with the force of a freight train.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee is no more. It is a profound, personal loss for me because, with him gone, it feels like I have lost one of the most precious links to my childhood, the tenuous connect I had with the moments I had spent with my father, glued to the TV, rooting for a man we both deeply admired.
If Vajpayee were around today, we would have been on the opposing ends of ideological spectrum. I would have still admired him, and it would have been okay. And that is the kind of politics that Vajpayee stood for, a politics we can no longer have.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius