Atal Behari Vajpayee and the RSS shared a close bond—he was a swayamsevak totally devoted to the Sangh. The Sangh, in turn, has immense respect for him as a swayamsevak who was into politics. Vajpayee and I have shared a father-son relationship. His public life equals my age. As an RSS ideologue, I always respected his way of thinking. The RSS also adopted Atalji’s thoughts and ideology.
During the Bihar assembly elections of 1967, Atalji and I had an in-depth conversation. I was asked by the RSS to brief Atalji. I told him the time has come when the Sangh will have to strengthen itself to challenge the opposition. To this Atalji said, “Let the government be formed, time will tell who will survive, who will stay and who will not”. He believed that we “needed power, but not at all costs”. He never compromised with this principle.
He was a master of the politics of consensus, a democrat. Atalji was by nature a moderate and abhorred violence. To him, language was a powerful weapon—a weapon that could spread hatred could also tackle situations without creating any tension. He said that he believed in ‘bhakti pradarshan’ and not ‘shakti pradarshan’.
Once I was misquoted by the media, which reported that I had called Atalji “the BJP’s mukhota” (mask). While answering a question about who was going to be the party president during the 1996 polls, I named someone else. “Why not Atalji?” I was asked. I replied, “Atalji is the most popular and most acceptable face of the BJP; by projecting him it will get a majority.” Some reporters replaced the Hindi word ‘chehra’ (face) with ‘mukhota’. I respect Atalji as my guru. A student can never speak ill of his guru.
(As Told To Satata Karmakar)
(The author is an RSS ideologue)