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When Advani Declared That Atal Would be PM, Here's What Vajpayee Had to Say

Maitreyan, he says, entered politics because of Vajpayee. Maitreyan was with the BJP for nine years before joining the AIADMK.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:August 17, 2018, 12:21 PM IST
When Advani Declared That Atal Would be PM, Here's What Vajpayee Had to Say
Former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee during his last press briefing in Lucknow in 2006.

Chennai: Before the 1996 Lok Sabha polls, there was a big BJP meet at Shivaji park ground in Mumbai. It was here that LK Advani announced that if the BJP comes to power, Atalji would lead the party. Upon hearing so, Vajpayee asked Advani how he could take such a "unilateral decision", recalled V Maitreyan.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full term, breathed his last at 5:05pm on Thursday at AIIMS in Delhi. While tributes continue to pour in for Vajpayee, V Maitreyan remembered the legendary leader. Maitreyan, he says, entered politics because of Vajpayee and Advani. Maitreyan was with the BJP for nine years before joining the AIADMK.

“Two people who inspired me to enter politics in those days were Atalji and Advaniji. Atalji's speech is something which you can never forget. In 1995, before the 1996 Lok Sabha polls, there was a conference of BJP workers was held in Mumbai. At that time, Atalji was the national president of the BJP. After the Ayodhya episode, everybody was expecting Advaniji will be was the PM candidate of the party.

"Normally, Advaniji will speak first and the final speech will be delivered by Atalji in all the meetings. Suddenly, in the middle of his speech, Advaniji announced that if the BJP comes to power, Atalji will be our PM,” Maitreyan told News18.

It bears noting that Advani never consulted anybody in this regard at that time.

“How can you take unilateral decision. It has to be discussed with the party,” said Vajpayee when he began his speech.

The three-time prime minister is known for his poetry, his masterful oratory, and his humanitarian approach to everyone regardless of the party affiliation.

So what made Maitreyan join the BJP? He said: “Immediately after the Emergency was revoked and Janata government came to power, Atalji was the external affairs minister. In Jan 1978, he came to Nagpur to address a public meeting. That was the first time I saw him and heard him also and his words still ring in my ears — ‘we may commit mistakes or blunders but we can never be traitors.’ That is the first impression of Atalji as far as I’m concerned.”

Maitreyan was with the BJP between 1991 and 1999. He recalled how whenever Vajpayee would visit Chennai, he would always go to meet him.

With the demise of Vajpayee, many, including Maitreyan, say that an era has come to an end.

“In his passing away, an era has come to an end. He was the tallest leader in Indian politics. He is the Bhishmapitamah. His sudden demise leaves a big vacuum in the national political scenario. It is an irreparable loss to the country. He was a man of consensus. He led a coalition of 23 political parties of divergent ideologies. To manage all of them and run the coalition government successfully for six years could only have been done by Atalji,” said Maitreyan.

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| Edited by: Ashutosh Tripathi
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