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Vajpayee Was Mookerjee's Admirer, Deendayal's Friend, But Followed Nehru: Journalist-Friend RV Pandit

When asked about the Ram Mandir movement, former journalist RV Pandit said that both LK Advani and Vajpayee didn’t mean damage in the temple politics.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:August 19, 2018, 8:07 PM IST
Vajpayee Was Mookerjee's Admirer, Deendayal's Friend, But Followed Nehru: Journalist-Friend RV Pandit
Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his last press briefing in Lucknow in 2006.

New Delhi: Seasoned journalist from the Vajpayee era recalls how the former prime minister stood for freedom of press and even if he disagreed with the reports, he didn’t bother them.

“The generation of leaders had witnessed the value of press freedom during 1965-77 and in times of active politics, safeguarded it. He was all for press freedom. Even if he didn’t agree with the newspapers, he didn’t interfere in their work,” said RV Pandit, who ran Imprint edition that closed down in 1988 and then he ran Pan, a music and magazine company, and remained a journalist.

Pandit, is a Roman Catholic, who got this name when he was 19-years-old while growing up in Maharashtra. Achyut Patwardhan, Indian independence activist, spotted him on a train carrying books. Impressed with his knowledge, Patwardhan told him, ‘You are a Pandit’. Soon after he got his name changed, and was baptized again.

Pandit spoke to News18 while he was in New Delhi to attend the funeral of his dear friend, the former PM.

“He caused no offence to anyone. He held press conferences, talked to reporters and met editors regularly. Almost every editor had an opportunity to meet in a month. With the experiences of 70s, he realized it is important for a healthy democracy,” he said.

Pandit said that the reporters covering PMO had access and he remembered the names of journalists who were on the beat.

“There was no confrontation – in his lawns there were people from all shades, he had great regards for all his opponents, including Jyoti Basu. They would talk once in two months,” he said.

The non-confrontational trait was seen in his foreign policy as well, Pandit recalls, “He had definitive views on Pakistan, and believed that we are the same people. He attended the national days in all diplomatic circles, he stayed there, and enjoyed the food – he was great foodie.”

There were many influences on Vajpayee, Pandit said, “He was a great admirer of SP Mukherjee, he was friendly with Deendayal Upadhyaya, he liked his frugality, and he wanted to follow Nehru’s footsteps as far the foreign policy was concerned.”

Jawaharlal Nehru was officially his own foreign minister, but in case of Atal ji, he had Jaswant Singh, as foreign secretary. Vajpayee hardly attended office, and did all his work from home. There was a big conference hall with people to brief him. He had a Muslim driver for quite long.

He admired Jan Sangh leader SP Mukherjee, Deendayal and followed Nehru, the former journalist said.

“He was looking for an alternative to Congress and Communism. He was against Indian Communists as he found them as undemocratic. He has a Nehru-like democrat. He honored Lok Sabha the most. It was a temple of democracy for him,” Pandit said.

In his times, there were iftaars and Muslims were part of his cabinet.

When asked about the Ram Mandir movement, Pandit said that both LK Advani and Vajpayee didn’t mean damage in the temple politics.

“Advani had not imagined this would happen – he wanted the crowd to stop. He is not destructive, but Uma Bharti was someone seen as standing and encouraging the crowd. Murli Manohar Joshi was not loud but present. Though Atal ji was quite upset, he was not enthused about the yatra,” he claimed.

The former journalist has also produced movies – Maachis, Nishaadon AIDS, it was named by Vajpayee, Train to Pakistan with government of India and Darmiyaan with Bhupen Hazarika.

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