Photo by Douglas CURRAN / AFP
Photo by Douglas CURRAN / AFP

The former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee left everyone in tears on Thursday by his demise. He was admired and respected by one and all across the political spectrum. Late Congress leader Rajiv Gandhi, who was known to take on BJP sharply in Parliament, made an exception for Vajpayee, to whom he was always courteous.

Despite belonging to two different political parties with completely opposing political principles, Vajpayee and the Gandhi scion shared a certain bond. When Rajiv Gandhi had died in 1991, Vajpayee had said that it was like losing his younger brother and also that had it not been for Rajiv’s magnanimity, Vajpayee would not have been alive. That remark of Vajpayee actually carries a very poignant tale behind it.

The book, ‘The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox’ by Ullekh NP, quotes Atal Bihari Vajpayee as saying: “When Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, he somehow found out I had a kidney problem and need treatment abroad. One day he called me to his office and said he was going to include me in India’s delegation to the UN and hoped I would use the opportunity to get the treatment I needed. I went to New York and that is one reason I am alive today”.

Rajiv Gandhi had also said that he had told his officials that the BJP leader should return only when his treatment was complete. Back then Vajpayee was the leader of opposition. This is how Vajpayee managed to go to abroad for life-saving kidney-related treatment. Interestingly, it was during this visit when Vajpayee penned his famous poem ‘Battle with Death’. Neither Rajiv Gandhi nor Vajpayee mentioned this in public until Vajpayee disclosed this after Rajiv Gandhi’s shocking assassination.

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Free Press Journal