Vajpayee’s liberalism: Real or False

Radhakanta Barik

Didi Tera Devar Deewana became the hit song of the Hindi film Hum Aapke Hain Koun. This hit song became the popular when Vajpayee actively campaigning for the Hindu Rashtra in the 1996 and 1998 general election stated that their aim was to recast the Indian polity thoroughly. When Advani openly stated that the movement on Ram temple did not end on 6 December,1992. It was a starting point for realizing the Hindu Rashtra. In the political drama enacted by Vajpayee is like Salman Khan acted in the popular song as Devar and this is his old Dhanda.

"Didi tera devar deewana
Ho didi tera devar deewana
Haye Ram, kudiyon ko daale daana
Dhandha hai yeh uska puraana."

Campaigning by Vajpayee proved to be the old trick that people did not believe in for which they had to go for a coalition government with a common minimum programme where these issues such as Art 370, Common Civil Code or Scrapping of Art 25to 28 would not be there. The right wing BJP is aware of limitations imposed by social and cultural history of our society. But for public consumption they involved in all tricks such as 'purana dhanda'. Political forces are supporting secularism and opposing the Hindu Rashtra were all most the cent percentage of population, but they wanted to show their desperation by involving the Ram Mandir politics. This is an old trick. Even in 2014 general election Modi spoke of development to collect the votes. Once they won the election their party leaders used the old tricks to satisfy their core support. Their core support was not more than ten percentages of people according to the survey. Like this hit song they used this old 'dhandha'.

 Liberals move with dilemma while speaking as there is no finality in their observation. Their observations can be changed with new facts and new theories. They doubt their own intelligence and understanding. They work hard to prove a point but allowing others to disprove it. In the process truth comes out. But in the case of Vajpayee who never raised doubt regarding the Ayodhya as the birth place of Ram. He had a fear of Indian historiography which is rich and complex one. Before Independence Indian historians and economists have acquired some space in the intellectual history of the world. Their works have been ignored by Vajpayee and branded them simply 'left' which is rubbish. He wanted the text books to be rewritten for the reasons that they had not taken the migration of Aryans into account by telling them as outsiders. To prove a point that historical imagination had not been guided by Bharatiyata. His new concept centered around Hindutva and branding Vivekananda as Hindutva spokesman which is absolutely wrong. By taking a concept Bharatiyata he proved a point that Ram's birthplace is in Ayodhya rather than researchers' research works. By accepting Ramayana as historical work he himself committed suicide as a poet. His poetic imagination could not fit into historical work. Vajpayee remained a liberal only outside his thinking and in his everyday life by eating non veg food and mixing with anybody.

There are three sources for evolution of the RSS as an organisation. The most important source is from the Western India that the Brahmins of the coastal belt or Konkan belt of Maharashtra. The founding members of the RSS hailed from this belt to the place Savarkar belongs. This group had left an imprint on Vajpayee as a young man as his friends hailed from this community while he was studying in Gwalior. The King of Gwalior opposed Indian nationalism and encouraged the RSS and Hindu Mahasabha. His childhood got shaped by these forces. This remained with him. RSS looks at the kings and Brahmins in a hierarchical sense according to Manusmriti which they accept it in principle. Vajpayee being the favourite child of the RSS and it’s headquarter of Nagpur. RSS impinged on his social practices. As the Prime Minister of India he touched the feet of the Nepal king as they think that the Nepal king was the only Hindu king who should be worshiped. Keeping the king on a pedestal helped him to bring Ram from his puja room to the political pedestal of the Hindutva. After being Prime Minister he along with the other leaders took a stand on the Ram temple. "Ram occupies an exalted place in Indian culture and the entire country wants a Ram Temple at Ayodhya." (Thought 23 December 1997) Once he accepted the King and Lord Ram on the same level as advised by the RSS for him to did anything possible for construction of the temple. By telling that the construction of the temple would be done in Ayodhya then his sense of history got buried under the stones of the Babri Masjid. For him history was fake there was nothing called facts of history. It could be manufactured which he did for justifying the place of birth of Ram in Ayodhya.

Sunday in India got brutalised by entry of television serial Ramayana by Ramanand sagar. Hundreds of Ramayana got reduced to one Ramayana by Sagar. One Ramayana can be cited here that Prof Nilakantha Rath wrote two articles on Odiya Ramayana whose father Radhanatha Rath refused to talk to him for the whole life. His father got influenced by Hindi Ramayana. Structure of ideas of each Ramayana is different from the other with a regional variation and cultural peculiarities of each region. Sagar's version fits into Hindutva of the North India more nearer to Tulsi Das's Ram Charit Manash. Vajpayee got the clues of the importance of Lord Ram and its relevance to Indian politics by looking at the serial in his sprawling bungalow in the heart of Lutyens’ Delhi with his family members Prof Kaul and Mrs Kaul and daughter who got engrossed with this story. Prof Kaul being the Professor of English Literature provided the relevance of literature in politics specifically electoral politics. Mrs kaul gave the idea of appealing power of Ram and Ramayana. These clues shaped his consciousness and he shifted Lord Ram from his puja room to the political platform. Once Ram entered into politics then they looked for a platform where the statue of Ram could be installed. The geographical area from Kashmir to Kanyakumari they did not find a place but they found the place below the Babri Masjid standing for four hundred years in Ayodhya. Then they went to a cool place Palampur of Himachal where he has built his second home in Manali they decided to go for the politics of the Rathyatra. The BJP's think tank took away Sita from Ram as they functioned as the Ravan and created a havoc on the routes where Ravan flied with the stolen Sita. India being mother of Sita still suffering from the attacks of these Ravans.

 Prof Ganeswar Mishra, a leading Odiya writer gave a sociological observation on religious practice of the Brahmin Community that they spend much time in doing their puja work in the morning. Then they did their everyday religious work. Vajpayee was born into a Brahmin family and used to involve in religious work in the early morning. That brings an end to his religiosity and get involved in doing secular activities for doing value addition to societal income. Their religiosity needs not be taken as religion of a society. Hinduism cannot be made synonymous with their social practices. There he created a confusion regarding Hinduism and Hindutva. Each community like the Brahmins do some puja work in various moments of their life such as birth or death time by inviting a priest belonging to the Brahmins but his whole life or occupation cannot be defined by religiosity. Nor his activities get confined to only religious world. He or she gets involved in social practices which are associated with some production activity. Every community has its own deity but there are as many castes as many deities but perhaps there are millions of Gods. There is no single god such as Ram.

They started speaking in the name of Ram and upgraded to political ideology of Hindutva that the Ram Mandir to be constructed over the land after Vajpayee's 'leveling the ground' of the Babri Masjid then his confusion started going up and down. Sometimes he said it as Dharma then he said that Dharma has no association with state as Ashok who practiced Buddhism but he never associated with the state. He has refereed to Akbar's religious world as liberal without mixing with the state. He was the stroke player in creating confusion which brought the liberal intelligentsia to make them support the Hindutva politics. Otherwise he believed in like others belonging to Hindutva that they wanted the Savarkar's theory of religion based state. Some form of the Hindurashtra by changing the chapter of fundamental rights.

Liberals move with ideas not with personalities. Vajpayee did not accept ideas only one personality such as Savarkar to whom he kept on a pedestal. Liberalism looks at many personalities as embodiment of ideas but he refused to do so. The best example his speech on 25 February, 2000 on the occasion of release of a book on Bhagat Singh in New Delhi. Bhagat Singh played an idealist and Marxist during the national movement who did not write an apology letter to the colonial administration for not going to gallows. His patriotism made him to be hanged by the British imperialism. Whereas Savarkar did write a letter of apology to the colonial administration while staying in the Portblair prison and he got released. Yes he wrote some poems by looking at the beauty of the ocean with bluish water and waves touching the Portblair his heart moved but his mind did not move with it. Savarkar as a poet can be compared with the poetic talent of Vajpayee. Bhagat Singh has no comparison with Savarkar. His writings on atheism and socialism are appealing to the general readers and scholars but Savarkar has no link with such brilliant ideas. He is an alien soul living in India who does not believe in a dialogue. Gandhi used to visit him to have a dialogue which he does not approve. Savarkar has poor understanding of Indian society and role of different ideas in politics. As a young student born into a Brahmin caste carries some prejudices about the other. The others are Muslims and Dalits. He theorized these prejudices as religious based nationalism. London could not educate him and he further believed in this vague idea that Hindus as a nation. A liberal like Gandhi and Nehru learnt from various ideas floating in the city of London. They both carried their correspondences with different intellectuals in their whole life discussing those ideas. Vajpayee never moved with ideas nor different personalities. His image of Savarkar remained constant and never changed that idea of Hindutva  propagated by Savarkar. Vajpayee spoke while releasing the book on Bhagat Singh test of his fixed idea and fixed thinking. -"..The contribution of RSS theoretician Veer Savarkar and others was no less than that of Shaheed Bhagat Singh and his compatriots." (The Statesman, February 26, 2000)

Vajpayee's views on core issues are no way different from the  RSS. Such as the Common Civil Code which should bind both Hindus and Muslims. There is no necessity of Muslim Personal law. He does not agree with the protection of minorities with the special rights. In opposition to this he wants that there is no such appeasement of the Muslims. He has a strong opinion on Art 370 in the case of Kashmir which need to be abolished. In the general election of 1996 the BJP pleaded for scrapping of Articles of 25 to 28 which provide special privileges to various minorities and atheists. These articles are a part of the Chapter on fundamental rights where each religious community has entered into a contractual relation with the Indian state thinking that the state is going to play a neutral role. In other words the state cannot be theocratic but a secular state with certain special protection to the minorities. One of them is the Muslim Personal Law. Demanding the Common Civil Code is the negation of all these provisions enshrined in Indian Constitution. With the rathyatra politics was getting its momentum, the RSS organised a discussion on Savarkar on 13 March 1991 where Vajpayee showed his full commitment to Savarkar as their national hero. That was the end of Vajpayee's politics for which the BJP came out of the Janata Party with a slogan of Gandhian socialism. This is the abandonment of Gandhi and accepted Savarkar. This happened in the year 1909 when Gandhi's first book Hindi Swaraj got released in the city of London where Savarkar was present that he bluntly told Gandhi that he stood for violence and ethno nationalism. It is the defeat of Vajpayee where his liberal face got blackened in front of all those who were present in memory of Savarkar. It is clear that there is no hypocrisy of Advani's rathyatra politics but the rath stands for Savarkar directing the rath where Advani was the Sakha. The ghost of Savarkar was haunting them like the Shakespeare's Hamlet where the ghost of Hamlet's father came back while they staged a false play by his son and others. Who killed Hamlet's father? Who killed Vajpayee's Gandhian socialism?

Let us examine Vajpayee's views on core issues of Hindutva politics. In 1989 they shifted from a right wing political party to a totalitarian party based on majoritarianism. Such a divisive strategy was adopted nobody else but by Vajpayee. It is the Palampur where the cool wind was blowing but these hot headed politicians sat there and passed a resolution. The draft prepared by nobody except Vajpayee. Once the Advani's rath started moving from Gujarat which experienced Kurukhetra where hundreds of houses got destroyed and communal riots were organised by Chote Advani that was Modi as the General Secretary of the BJP of Gujarat. Vajpayee's Miltonian heart did not get a puzzle but he gave a statement that "It was undertaken with the sole aim to mobilise wider national support in favour of the reconstruction of the Ram temple. It succeeded in this aim......During the Congress rule Hindus have not treated well." It is a political speech for attacking the Congress Party and mobilizing the majority community in favour of the BJP. Did he regret the anti-Muslim pogrom in Gujarat? If so why did he protect Modi from being sacked as the Prime Minister ....." This question raised to him by the leading journalist Khushwant Singh. He came to the conclusion that Vajpayee and Advani were two sides of the same coin. His cultivated liberal face with the help of friendly media was in reality it was the fake one. On the contrary he wrote a poem which explains his approach to Hindutva politics. "Itna kaphi hai antim dastak par khud darwaza khollon." It is not Tagores's poem that soft wind is knocking at the door but it is Vajpayee's line that a strong tremor is coming in the last decade of the twentieth century which shook the secular foundation of Indian democracy.

Max Weber discusses politics as a profession by looking into the structures of market economy and capitalist society. He finds the protestant ethics as the basis of capitalism. Politics as a profession evolved in this society for handling power and state. For him politics turn into a profession where those who are involved trying to get their livelihoods like other professions. He looks at each profession such as medicine or teaching or law evolving as occupations of a modern society. But he cannot conceptualize politics as a profession in a developing world where there is a lack of protestant ethics. Politics here gives Wealth and women and power. These are the benefits who are working as politicians. Most of the politicians in India derive their legitimacy from Mahabharata where power and illegality can go together. Vajpayee turned into a politician in the capital of India he got all these benefits like other politicians. Once there was a conflict between two top politicians belonging to his party over their woman friend which resulted in removal of Kalyan Singh from the BJP. He was forced to float a political party. Later he joined back the BJP. Here politicians do get W plus W without any hesitation. Their concept woman is not a friend but like land which they need to occupy where conflict can emerge over land and woman. Mahabharata tradition prevails in Haryana and Punjab where these two issues become crucial for violence and murder. According to Manu Shastra these privileges come because of good deeds one does in previous life which breeds fruits in this life. Nothing is illegal according to Manushastra. Many top politicians including Vajpayee have a large number of women friends which ever city they visit they accompany them.

 Everyday life of Vajpayee needs to be probed here. In the morning he spent his time with the family. He met his girlfriend in his college days of Gwalior with whom he fell in love. In those days lovers used to talk in their eyes. Each had a feeling for each other without speaking one word. Love at first sight becomes a true love. After 1957 election he got elected as MP to the Loksabha and got settled in Delhi. Delhi brought him nearer to Mrs Kaul who had been staying in Ramjas College campus. He started visiting their residence on regular basis. Once he became the Minister of foreign affairs in Desai government he invited Kaul's family to stay with him in his official residence. While he was minister he went to Shimla which was his favorite place during summer days. In the evening Vajpayee with his adapted family members moved on the Mall Road which I got a chance to see them in 1977. After that his adopted daughter and her children kept him busy in the morning. In day time he used to spend his time for his political work either in the party office or Parliament. In the evening which he spent with his friends over drink and kabab which was his favorite pass time. That friendship with Narasimha Rao and Chandra Sekhar and Biju Patnaik became very close. His social network turned into political capital for him and his party. In 1992 Rao as Prime Minister went into deep sleep in day time while the Babri Masjid was pulled down by the supporters of BJP. Because of his friendship with Rao this was possible. When the BJP turned into minority party to rule over Rajsthan, it was Chandrsekhar's help gave them the support. In 1996 election the BJP wanted the support of Biju Patnaik. After the death of Biju Patnaik, it was Naveen Patnaik placed the in Vajpayee's cabinet. Social network created by Vajpayee over drinks and kabab became a political capital for the BJP. His everyday life had three parts and each part became important for his political career. Even the RSS had differences with Vajpayee over many issues but had to depend on him because of his social political network which compelled them to accept his critical role in coalition making.

As an important parliamentarian Vajpayee did not have a different view on the issues formulated by the RSS. For instance he took a strong stand on Dowry Prohibition Act like Hindu Code Bill. He did not want the banning of dowry. On the contrary he supported the dowry up to two thousand rupees. Dowry demeans the position of woman as it violates the right to equality. Vajpayee is no more different on the RSS view of women that women need to be kept in house and while marriage is happening dowry needs to be paid. The Hindu code bill which provides the right to inheritance and right to marriage and divorce which got a stiff opposition from the Hindu conservatives. This is an important constitutional provision made by the Constituent Assembly both by Ambedkar and Nehru. But the conservatives opposed the law. The defeat of the law made Ambedkar so sad that he resigned from Nehru's cabinet. Although Nehru succeeded to enact the law afterwards. Vajpayee might be an imaginative person and might practice liberal approach to life and women but in reality he was not different from the RSS. That keeps him on the right side of power that as power is derived from the RSS. He never missed the chance by which the RSS would have a different opinion. For instance the same view that RSS took a strong stand on Jinnah which was the opinion of Vajpayee. That helped him to keep the backing of the RSS with him as a parliamentarian. He believed in the idea of ethno nationalism. That Hinduism is not a religion but an ethnic group as defined by the western scholars. Hindus have the right to have a nation on the basis of religion. This opinion shaped Vajpayee's political personality.

Political circumstances helped in rise of Vajpayee as a political persona. He belonged to the Jana Sangh which was competing with the other Hindu political groups such as Hindu Mahasabha and Ram Rajya parishad. But these groups did not have political representation which gave a boost to the Jana Sangha to dominate Hindutva politics. The Jana Sangh has four MPs in 1957 which became the sole representative of the Hindutva ideology. Secondly the border dispute with China in 1961 made three opposition leaders to work in a united manner. Vajpayee of the Jana Sangh had to work with Hem Barua of the Praja Socialist Party and N G Ranga of the Swatantra Party. They together improved the level of discussion in Parliament to embarrass Nehru on India China relationship. That was the time death of Shyam Prasad Mukherjee happened while staying in the prison of J and K. This became an emotive issue for the Jana Sangh. The next issue came of cow slaughter as a part of their agenda which brought Vajpayee into prominence. On 6th Nove 1966  a march was organised by Sadhus brandishing tridents and spears. Their issue came up inside the parliament by Vajpayee. All the issues related to Hindutva could be taken up by him on the floor of Loksabha and outside the parliament which made him a prominent leader of the right wing politics. Vajpayee became the leader of Jana Sangh which later turned into BJP. In BJP nobody could compete with him. The prominent face was Advani but he got embroiled in ratha yatra politics which pushed him to extreme right wing position. Vajpayee style helped him to remain as a moderate leader in Hindutva politics.

Vajpayee's birth place was in Gwalior which played Macca of RSS politics during the British rule because of the patronage of aristocracy and supported by the middle class belonging to Maratha community. This community has a hotline with the RSS headquarter at Nagpur. Among them Vajpayee's father, a school teacher lived in Maratha colony. As they while playing hide and seek game they imagined that they were playing with one side Britishers with whom they had love affair and another community Moguls with whom they had hatred. This left an imprint in his childhood world where his love for RSS grew.  Kanpur could not change his life style being a working-class city. He became the founder of the Jana Sangh with Upadhyaya and Mukherjee. Who died after some years of its formation, the whole mantle fell on his shoulder. He started campaigning for his party. In 1957 he selected his parliamentary constituency Balarampur of UP which is Brahmin dominated one. With their support he got a chance to have an entry into Loksabha where he with his literary imagination charmed Nehru and other leaders. As a hard core RSS person and Jana Sangh leader he opened up his party for which many stalwarts like Madhok left the party. Once the party turned into BJP he became the leader of the party with the support of Advani as second in commander chief. But he provided his intellectual mettle for pushing the party for marching to capture power. He as a poet understood the beauty of politics but as a politician went with all ugliness of politics as they looked outside of constitutional means to capture power that was the issue of Babri Masjid- Ram mandir. While the rath yatra was going on and led by Advani and chote Advani Modi to create riot in Gujarat to initiate the yatra he was sitting in a distant place of Delhi in his bunglow speaking like Bidur of Mahabharata articulating his dilemma which side he wanted to remain. This dilemma shaped his political persona for which the BJP used him as a blank cheque for negotiating with the opposition political groups in forming the coalition government in 1996 and 1998. But as a poet he remained with the other poets and literary people not supporting the destruction of Babri Masjid in writing a poem. But he as a politician remained with the all destructive forces launched with the rathyatra politics of Advani.

Vajpayee was the most popular public speaker of the BJP. Being a poet he could use poetic imagination for elucidating the points related to Hindutva. There were a good number of people across the country to hear his speech. On confidence motion initiated by his government in 1996 there was a discussion in the Lok Sabha I was going in the district of Ganjam of Odisha with a seniour officer belonging to Odisha in a jeep. At 6 PM Vajpayee was supposed to speak on his confidence motion as we were going on state high way It was not easy to find a town on the way. Around 5-30 PM he disappeared from the jeep to listen to the speech of Vajpayee. He was assigned to me for helping me in conducting some research work related to the state government. It seems that Vajpayee's speech was being appreciated by people cutting across the States. He used to use poetic words such as ‘samatal’ (leveling the ground)  rather than destroying Babri Masjid. The meaning is the same but style of speaking makes a difference. That did help him to be the Prime Minister in 1996 but his association with the Brahmin community added to his persona as the BJP had the largest number MPs belonging to one community who supported Vajpayee not Advani. That was the difference between Vajpayee and Advani.

 We looked into theory of land and politics associated with it. For Vajpayee there is no change in the concept of land. It is acquired from ancient text Mahabharata when Duryodhan speaking to his cousin brothers Yudhistir and others that not as small plot of land measured in terms of area required by a needle is going to be given without war and violence. This explains the story of Mahabharata. Mrs Indira Gandhi as the Prime Minister handed over land acquired from Pakistan at the time of war and went for peace which Vajpayee did not agree. He placed 'piece' rather than peace. Their concept of land as Mahabharata talks of it. Land, violence and conflict all go together. There is no modern legal system for settlement but only war and violence. He as the leader of the BJP spoke on December 5 for Babri Masjid. As he spoke of 'samatal' by using force against the Babri Masjid. There is no concept of Judiciary intervention to settle the dispute over land or Masjid. It is force, violence and conflict with the Muslim community would settle the issue of Babri Masjid. Their supporters did not use the word Ram Temple but Pakistan Murdabad while destroying the Masjid. This explains that Vajpayee did not agree with liberalism based on contractual theory. As land dispute can arise because of break of contractual agreement between two parties needs to be settled with the intervention of law with the help of judiciary. Vajpayee talked of 'piece' not peace that explains the logic of Hindutva politics. He did not believe in Locke's theory of contractual agreement leading to a neutral state which explains his stereotype view of Hindutva which was not different from Advani or Savarakar.

Vajpayee remained an important public speaker in parliamentary democracy. The year 1972 I got a chance to listen to him on the floor of Loksabha. He came to the Parliament in a bullock cart and got down at the gate and then entered into Parliament House. In their politics they used the symbolic value of cow and bullock. He brought a resolution on Shimla Peace agreement between Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India and Prime Minister Z. Bhutto of Pakistan. Both met in Shimla and while walking on the Mal road the most beautiful road of that time settled the thorniest issue between two countries: the issue of Land occupied by Indian army in the war with Pakistan. Land got transferred back to Pakistan which has been reduced its size because of carving out of it the new state Bangladesh. Mrs Gandhi understood the implication of the peace with a defeated neighbor with generosity. This was the necessity of any creative diplomacy to solve international disputes. The BJP had a small number of MPs led by Vajpayee. While Mrs Gandhi spoke on Shimla agreement there was usually some shrilling sound from his party colleagues. While Vajpayee spoke from the opposition with his eloquence the treasury bench listened to him. He spoke with a touch of humour that it was not peace but ‘piece’. One can understand the implication of his speech that no reconciliation with the so called enemy country that was the meaning of piece. Moreover, no land to a foreign country. That means their definition of enemy country is defined in western sense where no reconciliation with the enemy. Once acquired land from the enemy country is taken as a symbol of their Hindutva nationalism. This explains the substance of Vajpayee's politics. When he spoke eloquently in Hindi indicates his ideological politics of Jan Sangh days. They held a public meeting against the Congress over the issue of Shimla agreement in the Boat club where there were party supporters came to listen to him.

The Hindutva supporters have written obituaries on Vajpayee that he was a Nehruite and having a Nehru's soul. - How far true? Let us examine this observation that Nehru stood for secularism and democracy as he evolved as an intellectual from his Cambridge days. Moreover he as a son of elder Nehru brought up in a liberal environment. In their family there was a study room for elder Nehru, Nehru and his daughter Indira Gandhi. These study rooms make a difference. Nehru had a wide reading from his childhood days and he had love for great classics. One can look in the Jail and he gave a list of books to the Jailer for his reading one get astounded today. He was aware of Gordon Childe whose classic on Ancient History and archaeology has shaped the historians till today. His reading and interaction with political philosophers and politicians of London specifically Fabians have left an imprint on his mind. He has shaped his political personality after interacting with Gandhi who was a secular thinker and political mobilizer of masses. He came to stage of rural UP where he interacted with masses that worked as a great educator. As a practitioner of secularism while he was prime minister while the partition violence was going on. He behaved like a general to lead his team to the ground while riot was going on and stopped the riots and gave protection to the riot affected people. In an interview with a Professor from Gaya whose son Prof Hassan of Linguistic Department of Aligarh University was saying me that once a group of people were ready to go for riot against Muslims. Nehru was there and he himself jumped to the ground and stopped these people. These hoodlums got scared and stopped going ahead. Vajpayee had any such experience of intellectual orientation or practically when he faced the reality he went and spoke in favour of the hoodlums of December 6. Yes he was not present there but he as the leader of the BJP could have gone there to stop these hoodlums but no action has been taken by him. Moreover, he as the Prime Minister faced the situation to sack Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat but he shirked his responsibility. In no way he can be compared with Nehru as a theoretician or practitioner of realpolitik. In both ways he did not act. Those who are speaking of his Nehruite soul should read Milton's poem where he defined what enlightened soul is. I doubt Vajpayee had a Miltonian soul. As Milton was a religious person but his soul got enlightened, whereas Vajpayee remained as a Hindutva persona without a Milton's enlightened soul. The best proof is provided by a leading journalist and social activist Ruchira Gupta who was present the day demolition took place. She got physical violence as she was reporting from the Ayodhya where the Babri Masjid got pulled down by the hoodlums belonging to the RSS under the guidance of Advani and his colleagues.

“My encounter with Atal Behari Vajpayee was after the demolition of the Babri Masjid demolition. I had begun to testify in different inquiries. As an eyewitness to the demolition I had seen how the BJP leaders had deliberately flouted laws and encouraged others to do so as well. I was also able to testify about the physical assaults on me by the kar Sevaks.

Mr T. V. R Shenoy, a fellow journalist said Vajpayeeji wants to meet you for a cup of tea. When I went, Atalji asked me to stop speaking in public, including in courts, about what happened to me. He said: “You are a girl from a good family, you should not speak about what happened to you.”

I replied that I would stop speaking if he would publicly apologize on behalf of his party. He said he could not do that. I said, in that case, I cannot drink your cup of tea.

I left and the next I saw him he was India’s Prime Minister. He was loyal to the RSS and wanted to stop me from testifying against them. He had their usual patriarchal view of women: that Women should not speak about what happened to them. It’s their shame.

Nothing will change if we keep creating false or fragmented eulogies of people. He was not such a great orator either. He would leave his mouth open for minutes without saying anything. And his poetry was so so. This wah wah culture is silly.”   (Story told to us by a leading journalist Ruchira Gupta on her post on December 6, 20018).

The adulation Vajpayee has got in the last few weeks not because of his creation but creation of the present PM Modi. Democracy stands for dissent and dialogue which Modi has finished it. Public discourse has been brutalized so much it is difficult to raise any critical issue as one will be branded as anti-national which is popular. It happens in university or class room or media. After 72 years Modi has silenced public by attacking public institutions. Modi's government nominated some body Smriti Irani as the Education Minister who has just passed school board examination. Her qualification is doubtful. She became loud and bitter on the floor of parliament. Imagine Dr MM Joshi, a Professor in Chemistry from the prestigious university made Human resource Minister of Vajpayee cabinet. His foreign minister Shri Yaswant Singh who wanted to practice Vajpayee's foreign policy ideals with the neighbors specifically Pakistan. He wrote a book on Indian relationship with Pakistan. His finance minister Yashwant Sinha a retired IAS and politically liberal and interacted with the economists.

His defense minister was George Fernandes an intellectual giant belonging to old socialist. Today Modi's cabinet consists of people who had no standing in public life or intellectual life. As Arun Shourie a cabinet minister of Vajpayee said in a debate that he wanted to give free hand to his ministers to work with their intellectual orientation and integrity. Modi has concentrated power in PMO manned with retired civil servants who had no brilliance for themselves. Such mediocrity India has never seen in the past 73 years. Such poor performance has brought disaster like Demonitisation or repeal of Land Acquisition policy of 2014. Modi's cabinet is known as one and a half as Jaitley is counted as a half. Because of poor performance of Modi government at present has made people to praise Vajpayee who died yesterday. This is basically based on principle of negation of negation. As Prof C P Bhambri a leading political scientist and analyst has written a book on BJP, a critic of Vajpayee said, do not compare Vajpayee with Modi as the former was a poet, enjoyed meat and liquor cannot be compared with Modi.

Vajpayee remained a liberals within the RSS but not among the liberals as liberalism is defined by John Locke in his famous work that a limited state is required for the protection of individual liberty and life. In his time as the Prime Minister of a great Republic many leading writers, artists and authors got harassed by the goons belonging to the RSS. The state was unable to defend them against the attacks of the RSS. It is painful but true that he was a poet for which he required the Right to liberty as much other writers and artists. Yes in his period unlike Modi the poets and writers would not have returned their Sahity Academy awards. Any liberal allocates resources for creating provisions for the social security of its people rather than in his time the Indian army moved to the border by which the state spent almost one thousand crores. This was required for winning the 2004 general election. Suppose he would have remained a healthy and an active in 2014 after the general election then what would have happened to Modi? This question is a million dollar one. But all his friends say that as a shrewd politician belonging to UP with his Brahminic imagination would have not allowed Modi to come back to power. Either he would have been the Prime Minister once more as he was just 88 in the year 2014. As his guru Desai became the Prime Minister in his eighties whom he had a high regard. He allowed his supporters like Congress (O) to be gulped by the BJP not by the old Congress Party. It is interesting that after 1977 the BJP has eaten many political groups such as the Swatantra, Congress (O) and many supporters of Chandrasekhar and many regional groups. That is politics which had been handled by Vajpayee in his evening politics over a drink and kabab. But would have been different from Modi. Yes he would have selected his old party collegues such as Advani, Joshi etc. But would have different from Modi's cow vigilantes or Love Jihad. No. These are the policies of the RSS approved by their highest body with their supporters in the BJP. I do not think it would have different in that context but perhaps he would have different in appointing the educational bureaucrats as he had some respect for academia. But he was lucky that his tenure as the Prime Minister the economy was having a normal rate of growth and he initiated some projects such rural connectivity and important national high ways. Construction of these National High Ways made him to announce the slogan “Shining India” and requested people of India in 2004 to vote for him. He would have not dismantled the Planning Commission. He would have taken advice of his ministers for implementing economic and foreign policy decisions. He would have not gone for Demonetization or GST. He would not have dismantled the Universities and Public institutions. But he would have no control over the political groups allied with the Sangh Parivar who would have created havoc in Indian public life.

 I am sharing this balanced analysis by Kingshuk Nag on death of Atal Behari Vajpayee.  (see Kingshuk Nag, Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A man for all seasons, Rupa, 2015) Reading through the many analyses and tributes what strikes me is the emergence of Vajpayee as a colossus of Indian politics in the context of the times we live in at present. He wanted to turn BJP which was his own creation into a moderate party in his own image. It is a profound tragedy for India that he failed and what we have today in the shape of the Modi dispensation is an aggressive, intolerant, minority-bashing regime in the hard-line image of the never changing RSS which is the very anti-thesis of everything Vajpayee stood for.

 Cry beloved India cry! Indian tradition of respecting death of any body in a somber mood. Conflict is being avoided for marching to the cremation ground. I remember the death of my father on the backdrop of factional politics of the village with a lot of violence; we used to go to the opponents for requesting to attend the function. They came and they forgot for a moment of rivalry with us. This is our tradition specifically part of Hinduism. But today something serious happened violating the tradition on the way of carrying the dead body of Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister. Swami Agnivesh who worked with Vajpayee as a part of the Janata parivar came to pay floral tributes to the BJP headquarter where he was attacked by the RSS pracharaks. This is a symbolic action needs to be deconstructed by us. This is against the Indian tradition specifically against Hinduism. It is a part of politics of Hindutva which has no link with Hinduism. Their supporters turned violent and destroyed the spirit of tradition which is against Sanskar. Violence is the permanent tune of Hindutva politics which became clearer during Advani's rathyatra politics resulted in destruction of the old Masjid which is symbolic action where they destroyed the age old tradition that reconciliation and respect for the dead soul is required. But the Hindutva politics have no respect for tradition only they have learnt the language of violence is it rathyatra of Advani or the speech of Vajpayee in the city of Lucknow while the karsevaks were ready to destroy the Babri Masjid in support of their violent action. Vajpayee was kept as the blank cheque to be encashed while coalition got formed with the regional forces. It seems that Vajpayee and Advani are two sides of the same coin. One is speaking some kilometers away from Ayodhya while another directing their followers to destroy the three tombs of Masjid which stand for secularism, justice and democracy. Let us examine the role of Vajpayee during the rathyatra politics of Advani.

Vajpayee has got two deaths. While as the Prime Minister he wanted that Modi as the chief minister was unable to control the riots in Gujarat in maintaining the Rajdharma. He should have gone but the RSS and Advani became adamant for which he was not allowed to resign. Vajpayee could not maintain the Rajdharma as Gujarat was burning under Modi. Circumstances forced him to have a death. Today he died in his old age but he could have saved India by removing Modi who is carrying venom against everybody except the RSS.

As a liberal Vajpayee had committed many deaths in one life. As the Prime Minister of the Indian Republic he was the most powerful politician in the world. But could not remove Modi as the Chief Minister of Gujarat who got involved in worst form of crimes against humanity. He as a poet by accepting the Ramayana as the historical text made his poetic death.  Liberals go for reconciliation and compromise. At the time of the Babri Masjid destruction, he was a party to the conspiracy with Advani and Joshi. But his conscience did not say against the destruction of the old Masjid which has created a political environment of violence in Indian politics. Vajpayee’s liberalism is shallow and bankrupt as his politics is not different from the RSS.

Sep 13, 2018

Prof Radhakanta Barik [email protected]

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