Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's tenth prime minister, died Thursday in New Delhi at the age of 93. He will be remembered as the leader who brought India into the world's nuclear weapons club, but it was his love for poetry and sense of humor that endeared him to national leaders across party lines. His attempts to bring peace between two warring countries, though unsuccessful, ensured a begrudging respect from Pakistan and admiration from Indians. Vajpayee, who served as the Prime Minister of India three times, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, for a period of eleven months from 1998 to 1999, and then for a full term from 1999 to 2004.
By Promod Puri – Special To DESIBUZZCanada
The first time I saw Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, who passed away on Thursday, was when he spoke at a public rally on the ground of a Hindu temple in Jammu. That was way back in late 50's or early '60s. I was a still kid but mature enough to understand a bit of politics but with interest.
The long speech was interesting and entertaining with lots of wits which really impressed me with his oratory and thoughts. And I became an admirer of him till the time I realized that he belonged to the party which did not match up with my own political thinking of being left of the center, respect and equal opportunities for the minorities, and all that related to socialist ideologies.
Moving forward, as a working journalist I had the opportunity to meet him in Vancouver in mid 80's when he was the foreign minister in some coalition government. This time he again impressed me, but for a different reason. And that was his passionate spirit of nationalism or patriotism to speak for the interest of his country on foreign soil. His style was simple and friendly, but poor in expression, perhaps he was not comfortable speaking in English.
Those were my two personal encounters with Late Vajpayee. But being in the news business, following him was natural because of his towering status in the politics of modern India. My overall impression is that Sh. Vajpayee was a gentleman politician, not much sophisticated in political ideologies as well as in intellectual contribution as a popular public figure commanding utmost respect.
Promod Puri writes on current events, and on religious and human interests topics. He is the author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs and Traditions.