The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox- Review

Title: The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox

Author: Ullekh N P

Publisher: Penguin

Pages: 272

Price: Rs. 599

A new biography on former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox by Ullekh N P is an important book to understand the rise of Vajpayee and BJP. It is brilliantly written and well researched. Vajpayee was born in Gwalior on December 25 1924. The day was significant in various ways. Vajpayee was born on the day when Mahatma Gandhi was named Congress President at the Belgaum session of the Congress. It was the only time when Mahatma Gandhi took the responsibility of Congress President. In December 1924, the Gateway of India was opened by then Viceroy, the Earl of Reading. The year also witnessed a major struggle against caste oppression. In March, social reformer Sri Narayana Guru launched an agitation in Travancore for the lower castes right.

The author gives details of Vajpayee’s life. The book throws light on Vajpayee’s schooling, life in their ancestral village Bateshwar, his involvement with RSS, his personal life, his rise as a poet and a journalist and finally as a Prime Minister of the country. It shows how young Vajpayee who learn lessons of politics in RSS nursery and became PM. He mesmerized people with his oratory and appreciated Congress on various issues. He called Indira Gandhi ‘Ma Durga’ after Bangladesh came into existence.

Vajpayee was associated with RSS at an early age. But, soon he got influenced by leftist movement and for a brief period became a member of All India Students Federation (AISF). He was also influenced by Arya Samaj.

The book says Vajpayee supported Congress when they decided to dismiss EMS Namboodripad led Kerala government in 1959. The article 356 of the Constitution was used to dismiss duly elected state government. But, nobody was surprised when he did not recommend dismissal of Narendra Modi led Gujarat government after 2002 genocides. Then PM Vajpayee only advised Narendra Modi to follow Raj dharma.

In August 1942 Mahatma Gandhi launched Quit India movement for freedom from British imperialists. Vajpayee was in his village along with his elder brother Prem. In Bateshwar there was a protest at forest office on August 27 1942. Vajpayee and his brother went there to see protest. But, when police came many protesters ran away. Atal and Prem along with many others were arrested. There is a major controversy around whether Vajpayee participated in the freedom struggle or he was arrested by mistake. There are people in the ruling party and RSS who claim Vajpayee was a freedom fighter and there are historians who says Vajpayee was arrested by mistake. He was released after he confessed in a statement in Urdu on September 1 1942 that he had nothing to do with anti-British protest.

He named Kakua alias Liladhar and Mahuan. But, his confessional statement was never used by prosecution in the session’s trial.

Deendayal Upadhyaya was named as President of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh in the 1968 session of the party. Deendayal was a close associate of then RSS chief Guru Golwalkar. He succeeded Balraj Madhok. Soon Deendayal was found dead in mysterious circumstances in a Railway Yard in Uttar Pradesh. Madhok tried to become President again but failed. Vajpayee was made President. Madhok became furious and launched a campaign against Vajpayee.

Vajpayee took oath as PM of the country third time on October 13 1999. Interestingly, a day before in neighbouring Pakistan General Pervez Musharraf did a military coup by toppling Nawaz Sharif. In the same year, on December 24 an Indian Airline plane from Kathmandu to Delhi (IC-814) was hijacked. Hijackers ordered Pilot to take aircraft to Lahore but surprisingly Pakistan denied permission to land. As aircraft was not carrying enough fuel it was forced to land in Amritsar. Indian authorities failed to take any action and plane was allowed to go to Lahore with near empty-tanks. Pakistan switched off runway lights but Pilot had no other option but to land. After refueling plane left for Dubai, as Pakistan did not want to have anything to do with an Indian plane. 13 women and 11 children were released. The wife of Rupin Katyal (who was killed by hijackers) was not released.

From Dubai plane took off for Kandahar, Afghanistan. It was ruled by Taliban. The Indian government strikes a deal with hijackers. India released three dreaded terrorists –  Maulana Masood Azhar, Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar and Ahmed Omar Shaikh. The most shocking part was then Minister for External Affairs Jaswant Singh took these terrorists to Kandahar and got released 161 Indians in exchange of these three terrorists. The blame game within then government started. These terrorists are continuously working against India. India’s efforts to ban Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar is not getting any result as China is blocking all moves. But near the end of his term in the beginning of 2004, Vajpayee had agreement with Musharraf and for next three years there was near-complete peace on the border. In 2003, Vajpayee had announced an unilateral ceasefire from Srinagar and emphasized on the need to talk to all the stake holders to resolve Kashmir issue. These are also the reason that Vajpayee is still the most popular leader in Kashmir and Pakistan.

The book is a must read for everyone who want to understand the personality of Vajpayee and how he made BJP a strong party.

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