It was after ages that I found Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s name mentioned in the media, and it was for all the wrong reasons. True to his nature, AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi condemned the Narendra Modi government for conferring Bharat Ratna to the former Prime Minister.
Known to rake up controversies at the drop of a hat, the Muslim MP from Hyderabad has no sense of timing and propriety. Wheel-chair bound Vajpayee is over 90 years old, we should leave politics aside and show him the respect he deserves.
In any case, our former Prime Minister is living a lonely and challenging life.
The residence of Atal Bihari Vajpayee is merely five minutes from the BJP headquarters in Ashoka Road but his SPG-guarded Krishna Menon Marg bungalow wears a deserted look.
India’s only statesman Prime Minister, Vajpayee has been away from active politics for a decade now. He took to wheelchair after suffering a stroke in 2009 and has slowly but surely, faded into oblivion. Once a roaring lion, he has been reduced to being a non-entity. This is not the kind of fate such men deserve.
Hasn’t India, in effect, snubbed Vajpayee? Do we, as a nation, care about the well-being of ageing politicians, especially the ones who have left behind a lasting legacy of ideas and honesty?
As Indians, we are acknowledged as compassionate and caring people. In reality, most of us don’t even attach significance to our ageing parents, let alone an unrelated person, even if he happens to be a Prime Minister. Work pressure, the demands of a married life, children and other engagements take up all our time. It is only later, when they are gone, that we begin to grasp the enormity of the loss, but it’s already too late. Only regrets remain.
Vajpayee remained unmarried and has no blood family. He is dependent on a few dedicated caretakers who are his only friends, family and well-wisher.
The only people who care to give him company and are regular visitors are old friend LK Advani, N M Ghatate, Vajpayee’s closest friend of nearly six decades, and B C Khanduri (the general-turned-politician, who was the chief minister of Uttarakhand). They come and sit by his side, hold his hands and try to make light conversations. But the look on Vajpayee’s face is blank, there is complete lack of understanding. His daughter, Namita, has devoted her life to him and takes every possible care.
According to an insider, “Prime Minister Manmohan Singh makes regular inquiries about his health and never misses wishing Vajpayeeji personally on his birthday.”
But make no mistake, Vajpayee is mentally still very sharp, he is aware of his surroundings. He only can’t speak because of the stroke. Before the stroke, Vajpayee spent most of his time happily writing poetry and stories. Today, he has nothing to do but blankly stare at nothingness. He sees very clearly the deafening silence around him. He sees that many who claimed to be his well wisher never even bothered to ask about his health. He sees the change of guard in the party, he sees everything that is going wrong in Indian and world. He just can’t do anything about it.
Vajpayee’s day is much regimented. Most of his time is spent with physiotherapists, doctors, nurses and he is said to be responding mildly to the treatment.
Vajpayee is extremely fond of prawns and Chinese food but now only small portions are served. He has shrunk and lives on prescribed food only. One thing that many people miss ever since Vajpayee’s fell grievously ill, is his sense of humour, poetry and one-liners.
In parliament, when he spoke, even the opposition kept quiet. They understood his gravity and acknowledged his sense of righteousness.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee is perhaps the only Prime Minister of India whom even the opposition loved and respected.