04 May 2009

Vajpayee, the Right-Wing Leader

In the last three posts I dissected a couple of articles by Atal Behari Vajpayee to get to know his exact views on politics and governance. Now I am struck by the mismatch between the media's portrayal of the man and the real Vajpayee.

The media portrayed Vajpayee mainly as a smiling, amiable man whose only skill was his ability to get along with everybody. But the real Vajpayee, as we have seen, is a different – and much more impressive – person. He comes across as an intelligent and well-read man, who was knowledgeable about the world we live in today, and who had a bold new vision for the country – that was both nationalist and pragmatic. His biggest achievement was to help India break away from the failed ideas of the past – not just in politics, but also in governance and the economy.

The Congress may have fathered India's economic reforms, and the Third Front may have continued them. But they did it reluctantly, more out of necessity than out of conviction. They are left-of-centre or leftist parties, that still haven't gotten over their socialist hangover. The BJP, on the other hand, is a genuine right-wing party that is ideologically commitment to reforms.

Thus it was the BJP that took the reforms to a new level and ensured they are here to stay. And the man most responsible for this is Atal Behari Vajpayee. This contribution of his has been misunderstood, and its magnitude underestimated, both by his critics and his admirers. Vajpayee was a right-wing leader not just because he was a Hindu nationalist, but also because he championed reforms and freedom. Thus he was a true right-wing leader, in the complete sense of the term.

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