Atal Behari Vajpayee, a founder of the BJP, was a rightist by ideology, but at the same time, as a parliamentarian, minister and prime minister, he never stopped interacting with others. Whether he agreed with or not, he listened to all—that is why he was the right man in the wrong party.
When it was being debated whether India should send troops to Iraq, Vajpayee wanted to consult Left parties. Harkishen Singh Surjeet, then CPI(M) general secretary, and A.B. Bardhan, former CPI general secretary, went to meet Vajpayee. Both felt India should not succumb to US pressure and Vajpayee said “alright”. The next day, a resolution was passed in Parliament. From Comrade Bardhan we learned that during their meeting, Vajpayee told them, “Zor se boliye, comrade! Idhar se bahar jao aur kaho....” (Speak out, comrade. Go out and say this). He said leaders should make their position clear and take it to the people. Vajpayee was PM thrice from 1996 to 2004. During his full term, the India Shining campaign was launched, which we criticised. We questioned his policies and party on many issues. Yet, he would greet us with an “Aaiye, comrade!”
(D. Raja is the national secretary, CPI and former MP, Rajya Sabha)