Social media and news channels are abuzz with the former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s deteriorating health. Though this 93-year old is challenged by age, the fighter in him has won over innumerable such challenges and he will certainly come out strong out of this one too. We wish him speedy recovery and in the meanwhile would like to update you on the epoch maker’s contribution to India’s development that paved the way for BJP’s victory and unprecedented hold on Indian politics.
1) The backbone of Pokhran – II nuclear tests: The story of the Pokhran tests that elevated India to the ranks of ‘nuclear countries’ is mindboggling, so much that recently on the 20th anniversary of the tests a Bollywood movie inspired by the tale had been released. During his tenure Atalji spearheaded the planning of Pokhran tests in a secret manner, right under the nose of CIA satellites. Apart from international countries our own politicians criticized the Pokhran tests. Against all odds the Pokhran tests were successfully completed and India shone in the lists of nuclear countries.
2) Built roads & connect hearts: He unveiled the National Highway Development Project (NHDP) to construct world-class highways in India, connecting the four metros (‘Golden Quadrilateral’) and also the four corners of the country through the North-South and East-West Corridors. NHDP is the most ambitious infrastructure project since India’s independence. Also, his tenure saw the “Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna” that was responsible for creation of metalled all-weather roads in rural region of the country.
3) Economic policies and Telecommunications: Besides physical connectivity, his government took bold steps to build digital connectivity in the country. It ushered in a reform-oriented telecom and IT policies which boosted mobile and internet services in India and also helped make India a ‘software superpower’. It was Vajpayee who ended the monopoly of VSNL and forced it to compete with other players in a fair way rather than relying on the tag of a state owned giant.
4) Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan: During his tenure as PM the BJP government started the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan, a social scheme to provide universal access to free elementary education for children aged 6-14 years. Within four years of its launch in 2001, the number of out-of-school children dropped by 60 per cent.
5) Delhi Metro: It was his government that envisioned and laid the first physical line of Delhi Metro which today is one of the world’s best metro systems. It was the sheer determination of the man to improve infrastructure for common man that gave birth to this robust metro that still is the lifeline of Delhi.
6) International Relations: Vajpayee had a very effective diplomatic relations with international partners, as well as our troublesome neighbours. He had the magnanimity to make peace talks with Pakistan repeatedly, at the same time the guts to take a strong stance when Pakistan put its toe out of the line. During this time India’s relations with USA and other Western nations became deeper and broader too. He always said, “You can change friends but not your neighbours.” Hence, he always came out with strategies to have an effective working relation with neighbouring countries.
7) Besides promoting mutually beneficial economic ties between India and China, his government also initiated a structured mechanism for high-level dialogue to resolve the border dispute between our two countries. Besides elevating India’s relations with Japan to a strategic level, he gave a new impetus to India’s ‘Look East Policy’ to build closer ties with countries in South-East Asia and East Asia.
8) Vajpayee was the brain behind the much debated Prevention of terrorism act (POTA) which his critics tried to corner his government. However, the effect of scrapping it by the UPA government is still evident as India has seen an unprecedented increase in terror cases and the legal difficulty in handling them.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a writer, poet, excellent orator Bharat Ratna, Padma Vibhushan awardee and the first non-Congress PM to complete a full-five year term. He is highly revered by his party and the opposition alike. It won’t be wrong to say that Atalji was indeed one of the best Prime Ministers of India.
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Four years ago, we made a tryst with destiny of our country, and now when the time has come we shall reiterate our pledge, wholly and in full measure, very much willingly.