August 13, 2020
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The Mask Slips

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The Mask Slips
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
What else is left to be said of Atal Behari Vajpayee? For someone who has built his political career on calculated and crafty double talk, he has had a long and successful innings. The mask occasionally shows signs of slipping, the verbal jugglery is frequently exposed, his image as a BJP dove is shown up as a sham, even his integrity (thanks to his close advisors and family members) in terms of itchy fingers is suspect. Yet.... Has this charismatic poet-politician at last been caught out? Has this amiable charlatan outlived his luck? I am not sure. In India even an 80-plus ex-PM cannot be ruled out as 'finished'. To declare, therefore, that Vajpayee has finally come to the end of the road may be a trifle premature. He is still hanging in there as he waits for another call from destiny.

It is no secret that on December 5 and 6, 1992, many BJP leaders made provocative speeches to the faithful which fell just short of a direct incitement to go and demolish the Babri Masjid. Vajpayee's name was absent from the list because we were persuaded to believe that this self-styled moderate was against the Ramjanmabhoomi movement in general and L.K. Advani's rath yatra in particular. Now, the CD Outlook has obtained, and whose contents we published in our English and Hindi editions, gives a lie to that belief. In 1992 while video recordings were possible, the voice and picture quality was generally poor. Alas, technology has worked against Mr Vajpayee, the recording has been vastly improved and the CD which was played on some TV channels last week has superb audio-visual resolution. A younger Vajpayee stands erect, is physically agile, is not given to pauses, does not confuse people or places. If you wish to see Atal the orator at his prime, study his December 5, 1992, speech in Lucknow where he tells kar sevaks, in words riddled with threat, "I do not know what will happen tomorrow."

Indeed, if technology had not worked against Vajpayee, if we had not been able to clearly see his emphatic body language, we would have given him the benefit of the doubt. Pleas of being misunderstood might have been entertained. Not now. On the Outlook CD you should read not just his lips but his posture too. Vajpayee says in his defence that he was speaking in a "lighter vein". Our ears and, more crucially, our eyes disprove that.

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