Friday, August 19th, 2022 14:38:07

Cussedness Of Congress Corrected

Updated: January 17, 2015 7:00 am

Brajesh Mishra was awarded Padam Vibhushan for services rendered but Sonia Gandhi could not bring herself to even thank Atalji through Bharat Ratna for courtesy and regard he maintained for her throughout his tenure. Did she think Mishra could do anything for her sake in Boston without Atalji’s consent and could get help in Washington, without mentioning Atalji’s desire to sort out the matter?

In its wisdom, the Manmohan Singh UPA Government for 10 years ignored honouring Atal Behari Vajpayee with Bharat Ratan, it even disregarded LK Advani letter requesting that Atalji be given this highest civilian award. For Dr Singh and Sonia Gandhi, Bharat Ratna to young Sachin Tendulkar was a priority but recognizing the services of an ageing Atalji they linked with politics. Pettiness and sheer thanklessness.

Brajesh Mishra was awarded Padam Vibhushan for services rendered but Sonia Gandhi could not bring herself to even thank Atalji through Bharat Ratna for courtesy and regard he maintained for her throughout his tenure. Did she think Mishra could do anything for her sake in Boston without Atalji’s consent and could get help in Washington, without mentioning Atalji’s desire to sort out the matter?

The same people are cheering the award to him. What hypocrisy. They have been shamed and nothing can make India forget their small-mindedness. Atalji meant so much to everyone: he was a giant amongst giants, this Narendra Modi’s tweet said it all. Atal Behari Vajpayee, poet, philosopher, gentleman and a politician with a human heart—a rare quality in contemporary leaders—won hearts, charmed anyone and everyone he met, his genial and warm smile melted angers. His poetry floored the opposition members and cast magic spell on journalists at press conferences. His smiling face and raised hand whenever he would say something he wanted to stress upon is etched in the memory of everyone who had the good fortune to have conversation with him.

The ups and downs in his political career could never take away from him his eternal devotion and ambition to take India to greatness. And he did succeed. A sentence of Benazir Bhutto revealed both the hidden admiration of a leader of a hostile Pakistan and the regard US Administration had for him.

I was coming to Delhi from London on leave and thought of doing an interview of Bibi (Benazir was called by most) which I could give to the Editor. I met her at her spacious apartment in Queens Gate. The interview lasted about half an hour after which she asked me to stay back for lunch. During the meal when I mentioned my going to Delhi she said, “Vijay, please do two things for me. One, the easy one, please bring a big packet of Haldiram sweets. Please request Mr Vajpayee on my behalf to put in a word about me in Washington. That would really help me. He does not know what weight his words carry and the attention the US Administration gives to his statements.”

While driving back I felt really happy. So this high Atalji has taken India to, I thought. Another instance of the esteem countries had for him was visible in the manner he was welcomed by the British Government. After Atalji’s interaction with the Indian community at a hotel on Edgware Road, we were coming down quickly to see his cavalcade leave. What we saw astounded us.

There were four police riders, their powerful motorbikes idling, behind them was a black limousine with four men in black suits, obviously MI-6 sleuths, behind which was the car for Atalji, followed by another car with security officers. Then followed cars of Indian diplomats, in the end was a Scotland Yard car and an Ambulance.

But as the cavalcade started to move, three police helicopters appeared and looked as if they were escorting the cavalcade from the sky. Hardeep Puri, who was then Deputy High Commissioner of London, could not help say aloud “One makes one so proud. Our Prime Minister getting such a welcome!” True, I had never seen except in the case of US Presidents such a security. No Indian Prime Minister was accorded such a high scale of welcome. Vajpayeeji, as said before, never lost his wit nor his gentleness. While addressing the community he said, “I just met Lord King. And I asked how did he manage to get both the peerage and a realm?”

The Unfortunate Controversy


We Indians love controversies. If there is none, then we create one and then tear each other’s hair debating it. The posthumous award of Bharat Ratna to Madan Mohan Malviya turned into a major controversy. This kind of furore is sign of the politically surcharged times. When B.R. Ambedkar was posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna by V.P. Singh government, nearly 44 years after his death, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad after 34 years and Sardar Patel too was posthumously awarded no one objected and no controversy followed it.

Are separate ideologies the reason? Many of the objectors belonged to Nehruvian ideology. They never murmured when Indira Gandhi, soon after self-awarding herself Bharat Ratna, declared the emergency. In 1966 when the awards were started, six of those awarded were dead.

Now during the present controversy one made a sweeping comment that there have been greater nationalists, did they mean Malviya was a lesser patriot than Gulzarilal Nanda or MGR? Did Malviya also known as Mahamana not deserve it? One said he was President of Hindu Mahasabha, forgot that he later was President of the Congress Party for four times. The fact is that those were the days of consensus rather than days of conflicts.

Others object on the ground that if awards are given posthumously, it would lead to innumerable demands for a pantheon of legendary figures. Malaviya is most remembered as the founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) at Varanasi in 1915, the largest residential university in Asia and one of the largest in the world, having over 12,000 students across arts, sciences, engineering and technology. Malaviya was Vice Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University from 1919–1938.

Malaviya was the President of the Indian National Congress on four occasions (1909, 1913, 1919 and 1932). He left Congress in 1934. Malviya was one of the founders of Scouting in India. He also founded a highly influential, English-newspaper, The Leader published from Allahabad in 1909. He was also the Chairman of Hindustan Times from 1924 to 1946. His efforts resulted in the launch of its Hindi edition named Hindustan Dainik in 1936. When its present Editor congratulated Malviya’s grandson, he congratulated him too. Why then now. One said he President of Hindu Mahasabha, forgot that he later became President of the Congress Party raised the objection that this practise of posthumous awards would lead to innumerable demands. One cited names of Kabir, Ghalib, Surdas, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Lala Lajpat Rai for Bharat Ratna.

“If government going the historical route on Bharat Ratnas it should also consider the names of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukdev, Lala Lajpat Rai…,” he said on Twitter. Tewari also suggested names of founders of the INA Rash Behari Bose, Gen Mohan Singh, Annie Besant, AO Hume and Gopal Krishna Gokhle in his tweet.

This is a valid argument, but one that does not justify the controversy over Bharat Ratna to Malviya. He was a nationalist, educationalist, founder of noted papers like The Leader, founder of Dainik Hindustan and Chairman of Hindustan Times. His biggest and ever-lasting contribution is the Banaras Hindu University, the alumni from which are found all over the world.

A very popular historian and commentator’s objection that there were others like Tilak is not valid. The governments of the day have the prerogative to give this highest civilian award to anyone considered eminent enough to deserve it. And no one, not even this particular commentator, can question Malviya’s eminence.

Mahatma Gandhi named Malviya, Mahmana and said he considered him as his Guru. True, in a way he was. When Malviya became President of the National Congress in 1909, Gandhi was nowhere on the scene. In Calcutta in the second session in 1996 of the Congress Party under Dadabhai Naoroji, Malviya’s speech received a standing ovation. It was then that Raja Rampal Singh he invited him to edit Hindustan Weekly.

Malviya gave up legal practise in early 1900 but took up the case of the accused in Chauri Chaura and got three-fourth acquitted. He was member of the first Imperial Legislative Council from 1912 to 1919. After it became the Central Legislative Council he remained its member until 1926.

Malviya was in the delegation for Roundtable in 1930. His versatility is amazing. He deserves the Bharat Ratna more than quite a few of its earlier recipients.

This award must not be politicised. And the other important thing is that it would have been better if the award to Malviya was not dragged into the controversy over awarding Bharat Ratna posthumously. No question he was a befitting choice, and the other issue is relevant too.

The question raised about giving Bharat Ratna posthumously must not be allowed to melt away with time. It must be settled for future guidance.

The intermingling of the award to Malviya with the other issue was rather unfortunate. More sad was the hint of ideological differences. Most objectors were Nehruvian or with Left leaning. At times one needs to rise above one’s leanings and for a change think as a nationalist.

The very fact that no controversy was raised over posthumous awards earlier is rather a sad commentary of the state of Indian polity today. Those days when a Nehru or a Lohia or a Mukherjee after heated debate inside the House would exchange pleasantries in the Central Hall appear so distant now. Sometime the politicians, historians and leftists should dwell on the concluding lines of a poem by Atalji. ‘Aao hum sab milke diya jalayen’.                                                                                    (VD)

His greatness and self-respect are evident from the fact that he refused to nominate himself for Bharat Ratna which was proposed by BJP in 1998 after the nuclear test. The party thought that his popularity was at its peak. Senior journalist Ashok Tandon says that after the Kargil conflict, BJP leaders were of the view that Mr Vajpayee should be awarded the Bharat Ratna. They believed that Mr Vajpayee’s popularity was at its peak after the 1998 nuclear test and then again after winning of the Kargil war. Compare this with Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi who nominated themselves for Bharat Ratna.

As prime minister too he showed he had plans for economy and resolving differences with Pakistan. In late 2002 and 2003 his government pushed economic reforms, and the country’s GDP growth accelerated at record levels, exceeding 6–7%. Increasing foreign investment, modernisation of public and industrial infrastructure, the creation of jobs, a rising high-tech and IT industry and urban modernisation and expansion improved the nation’s international image. Good crop harvests and strong industrial expansion also helped the economy.

The government also reformed the tax system, increased the pace of reforms and pro-business initiatives, major irrigation and housing schemes and so on. The political energies of the BJP shifted to the rising urban middle-class and young people, who were positive and enthusiastic about the major economic expansion and future of the country. He faced stiff opposition from other equally strong originations within Sangh Parivar such as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. However, he continued with his aggressive economic reform policy.

In late 1998 and early 1999, Vajpayee began a determined push for a full-scale diplomatic peace process with Pakistan. With the historic inauguration of the Delhi-Lahore bus service in February 1999, Vajpayee initiated a new peace process aimed towards permanently resolving the Kashmir dispute and other conflicts with Pakistan. The resultant Lahore Declaration espoused a commitment to dialogue, expanded trade relations and mutual friendship and envisaged a goal of denuclearised South Asia. This eased the tension created by the 1998 nuclear tests, not only within the two nations but also in South Asia and the rest of the world. Then in August 2003, he announced in parliament his “absolute last” effort to achieve peace with Pakistan. Although the diplomatic process never truly set-off immediately, visits were exchanged by high-level officials and the military stand-off ended. The Pakistani President and Pakistani politicians, civil and religious leaders hailed this initiative as did the leaders of America, Europe and much of the world. In July 2003, Prime Minister Vajpayee, visited China, and met with various Chinese leaders. He recognised Tibet as a part of China, which was welcomed by the Chinese leadership, who in the following year, recognised Sikkim, as a part of India. Sino-Indian Relations, improved greatly, in the following years.

Vajpayee again broke the ice in the Indo-Pak relations by inviting Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf to Delhi and Agra for a joint summit and peace talks. His second major attempt to move beyond the stalemate involved inviting the man who had planned the Kargil invasions. But accepting him as the President of Pakistan, Vajpayee chose to move forward. But after three days of much fanfare, which included Musharraf visiting his birthplace in Delhi, the summit failed to achieve a breakthrough as President Musharraf declined to leave aside the issue of Kashmir.

The moderate face of BJP Atalji emerges both as a person and politician as one who could gather a coalition of nearly 24 parties and manage it for full term of five years. To deny him Bharat Ratna was sheer cussedness.

He is not well, but the whole country, except a few, whom we all know, rejoiced the birthday of Atal Behari Vajpayee, Bharat Ratna on December 25. On a last note—if he had not become a politician he would have been a poet. What a loss to Hindi poetry. He had asked himself Rah kaunsi jaoon main and he chose service to the nation. We all thank him for that.

By Vijay Dutt

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