History Is Nobody' Friend: The Ills Facing India Are Partly Due to the Indecision of the Vajpaye and Nehru Era
Atal Bihari Vajpayee one of the tallest leaders of BJP and Prime Minister of India for a period of 6 years passed away on 16 August 2018. He was 94. He was the first non-Congress prime minister to have served a full term as the Indian prime minister from 1998 - 2004 when he lost the election to the Congress Party. For the last 14 years, Vajpayee had been confined to his house as he has not kept well. He was critically ill and admitted to the All India Institute of Medical Science about two months back.
Vajpayee was a charismatic leader and the founder member of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He had been a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ever since he was a boy. He was a bachelor and devoted his entire time to the RSS and later the BJP. His hard work was rewarded as in 1998 he was chosen to be the Prime Minister of India and it to his credit that he was the first non-Congress Prime Minister who served a full term
A lot of water has flown down the Jamuna for the last two decades and we can now assess that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the prime minister of India at a very crucial period in Indian history. This was the time when he showed his mettle and took the decision to make India a nuclear power, despite opposition from the Americans and Western powers. This was a momentous decision and put India on the path to becoming a nuclear power. However, history will record that he failed to take very important decisions which had far-reaching repercussions for the Indian state. It is worth examining this aspect of Vajpayee.
Kargil operations- far reaching implications
Vajpayee like Nehru was more of a philosopher than a political leader. He was also a poet and his poems written in Hindi create a lyrical world. He was also an idealist who believed in peace. This idealism is not something that is conducive for a leader in the modern world. In good faith, he journeyed to Lahore by bus in the hope that he would usher in a new era of peace with Pakistan. There he met Nawaz Sharif and tried to establish rapport with the leadership.
He perhaps did not believe in the policy of Bismarck of " blood and iron." The net result was that when General Musharraf launched an attack and captured large areas in Kargil which was under the Indian Line of Control, his response was muted. In contrast, one must remember that when in 1965, Lal Bahadur Shastri was the prime minister of India and Pakistan and launched infiltration into Kashmir, Lal Bahadur had declared an attack in Kashmir was an attack on India. He followed up by asking General JN Chaudhary, the then Army chief to launch an attack in the Lahore and Sialkot sector. India thus opened another front and the Pak leadership was bewildered.
In the case of Vajpayee, there appears to be some indecisiveness as he never acted the way Lal Bahadur Shastri had done. He reportedly instructed Chief of the army staff general Malik, when the operations had commenced to throw out the Pakistani infiltrators started in Kargil, not to cross the LOC. This was a major flaw as India achieved nothing except heavy casualties. Even now many people are perplexed as to why Vajpayee did not authorize a front in the Lahore sector to relieve the pressure in Kargil. These facts will form part of history for all time to come. The fact remains that he set a bad precedent for the future prime ministers of India by trying to isolate war in Kashmir from the rest of India
Vajpayee also failed to give the proper leadership when the Indian Airlines plane was Hijacked to Kandahar in Afghanistan. He negotiated with the terrorists and also released the notorious terrorist Manzoor. He also failed to give the orders to the Indian commandos to storm the airplane when it was parked for nearly two hours at Amritsar Airport.
One reason for this was that he had no comprehension of power politics and the use of military force as an instrument of power. This was the mistake of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who also was in the same boat. Both of these men did incalculable harm to the Indian Ethos. It must be understood that the Hindus have warlike qualities and during the period of ancient history, war was a glorified profession but both Vajpayee and Nehru appears to be two sides of the same coin
Rule of Vajpayee
During the 6 years of the Vajpayee era, unfortunately, the BJP manifesto of a common Civil Code and abolishing article 370 never moved forward an inch. it appeared like he had completely forgotten about these items which the BJP and RSS had been campaigning for years.
To the credit of Vajpayee, it must be mentioned that he was not a hardliner. As I have already written, he was more of a philosopher and believed it was the best to live in peace and keep everybody happy. Great leaders have to take hard decisions which he never took. Vajpayee had a great chance in history to become India's greatest prime minister. But he spoilt his copy book by sitting on the fence on many promises in the BJP manifesto.
In his defense, it can be said that at that time the BJP did not have an absolute majority in Parliament but the fact remains that he never talked of these contentious things as well.
Vajpayee will be remembered as a man of peace. The fact is that despite being a BJP Prime Minister he was very much liked by the opposition. Even now in Kashmir, people talk about him.
His biggest contribution which will live forever is his decision to allow India to test the nuclear and hydrogen bomb. This perhaps was his greatest achievement but after that like river Ganga and Yamuna flowing into the Bay of Bengal he just meandered along. Maybe he was a bit timid and was scared of an all-out war. it is the bane of India that after 1947 and that death of Sardar Patel, India never had a strong leader like Mao, Stalin, and Eisenhower.