The huge army of highly committed and disciplined cadres that are seen today with the Bharatiya Janata Party all over the country is because of the matchless dedication, magnetic personality and the trust of the workers on leaders like Vajpayeeji
Atalji was very considerate and accommodative towards fellow party workers. In fact, he considered them a part of his own body. That was why every worker who ever met him felt as if he was very close to Atalji. The huge army of highly committed and disciplined cadres seen with the party today all over the country is because of the matchless dedication and magnetic personality of leaders like Vajpayeeji. Wherever he visited in the country, he met with the workers and moulded even ordinary workers as committed workers. His charming persona attracted not only the party workers, but the political opponents also. If he is regarded as ‘Ajatshatru’ today, it is because of his superb humane qualities.
What impressed me the most and the countless party workers across the country was that he was always ready to do everything for the workers. There was hardly anyone who approached him with genuine grievances and returned disappointed from his door. How he cared for the workers can be understood from an incident that occurred with me. Originally, I belong to Jaipur, Rajasthan. I used to meet him in Delhi as an ordinary worker. As most party workers and leaders in Jaipur knew me personally, one day, I accompanied Atalji to Jaipur to attend a programme. When we reached Jaipur, he was extended a rousing welcome. While I was busy in looking after his luggage and some essential documents that he carried, the local leaders took Vajpayeeji to the programme venue in a car. They had hardly travelled two km, when suddenly Vajpayeeji said, “Where is the guy who came with me from Delhi?” They told him casually that he was a local worker and that he would reach the venue by himself. Vajpayeeji lost his composure and said, “No! Stop the car and call him first. He would come with me only”. It is not generally expected from today’s political leaders.
His charming persona attracted not only the party workers, but the political opponents also. If he is regarded as ‘Ajatshatru’ today, it is because of his superb humane qualitiesAny worker could have met Atalji anytime and he always heard their problems patiently. Whatever was possible, he used to do it immediately. But today we see the gap between leaders and the workers is widening. In the past, workers could meet the leaders anytime. Today, it is extremely difficult for them to meet their leaders even at lower level. The growing number of PA’s is also widening this gap. Even a lowly Corporator has three assistants. This
distance must reduce. There should be heart-to-heart contact.
Atalji had an extraordinary personality to mesmerise people. He was a keen listener. We often got irritated when visitors repeated the same thing ad nauseum but Atalji had inexhaustible patience for them. After listening to his problems, he would suggest best possible remedy. He treated everyone equally. For him, it never mattered whether one was rich or poor. He was a statesman and an amazing humanist. I feel God Almighty has stopped sculpting such incredible souls now.
Wherever he travelled by train or car, I always accompanied him. Since no assistant was allowed on the flight then, as the party did not have money to pay for the air fare of assistant, I did not join him in the air travels initially. In those days, we did not have a car. So, I purchased a scooter. And I used to pick and drop Atalji from and to Parliament on that scooter. When we purchased an Ambassador car for the first time in 1971, I started driving it. I looked after his personal and official correspondences. During the five decades I had worked with him, Atalji never called me ‘Shivkumar’ but always as ‘Shivkumar ji’, though I was 14 year younger to him. Such regard even to his assistant is sign of his amazing personality! That association ended on August 16, 2018. It was the end of an era of an Epoch-Maker who left this materialistic world for the heavenly abode!
Atalji was a humanist. He did not like the politics of back-stabbing. He never went into the Well in the House nor did he shout slogans in the House. When he formed the Government at Centre for 13 days, he refused to indulge in horse-trading. Atalji used to present his viewpoint strongly at the party platform. If the party did not accept his viewpoint, he accepted the party’s viewpoint. On many occasions, he disagreed with the stand taken by the party, but never spoke against the party. This quality needs to be imbibed by the present politicians.
In 2005, the party convened a big meeting at Shivaji Park, in Mumbai. In that meeting, Atalji chose to be the last to speak. He stood up solemnly and informed the party that he would retire from active in politics now and that he would not contest any election. He said the new generation should take over from now on.
We returned to Delhi. Everything seemed alright then till 2007. He was active till the President’s election contested by Shri Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. In 2007, a tragedy struck him when he slipped in the bathroom, wounding himself in the head. After that tragic accident, his contact with the public and party workers almost came to an end. Like Bhishma Pitamah, he even chose his death also at will. On August 16 when the nation had celebrated the Independence Day, he breathed his last at 5.05 pm.
Today’s political leaders should learn a lot from Atalji. His entire life has been full of high ideals and inspirations. Meeting people, hearing their problems and addressing them immediately should be the top priority of a leader in any party. Disconnecting oneself from the root will prove to be disastrous for the party.
(The writer was personal assistant of Atalji for 50 years. As told to Dr Pramod Kumar)