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Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a persuader not a crusader, says S Jaipal Reddy

S Jaipal Reddy drew a distinction between former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and BJP's current leadership

Business Standard 

Atal Bihari Vajpayee
Atal Bihari Vajpayee | Photo: Wikipedia

Senior leader has been rehabilitated as a party spokesperson. Speaking at his first press conference on Tuesday, Reddy said his would be an occasional presence as he needed to prepare for the 2019 polls.

Drawing a distinction between former prime minister and Bharatiya Janata Party’s current leadership, Reddy said Vajpayee was a persuader not a crusader. He said that in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s council of ministers, “lightweights” like Nirmala Sitharaman (defence minister) had been elevated while heavyweights like M M Joshi were eliminated and middleweights marginalised.

Beyond the party line

At a condolence meeting organised in memory of former Speaker on Tuesday, former prime minister (pictured) reminisced about his long association with Chatterjee and with the leader’s family. Singh said Chatterjee’s father N C Chatterjee had once come to deliver the annual lecture at Amritsar’s Hindu College, where Singh was a student. When Chatterjee senior noticed that he had grabbed all the prizes, he said to Singh: “Young man, I see a bright career for you”.

Singh said Chatterjee and he were also alumni of Cambridge University. While the former Speaker studied at the University’s Jesus College, Singh was at St John’s College. Singh recalled that Chatterjee vehemently criticised the economic policies pursued when he was finance minister, and how he calmed Chatterjee down after a heated debate by reminding him of their “common ancestry”.

Taking a different route

The condolence meeting also had current members of the country’s leading Communist parties and a former member disagreeing over whether supported economic liberalisation. Samir Putatundu, who was thrown out of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) along with Saifuddin Choudhury in 2001, said Chatterjee had differences with the party on economic liberalisation.

A little later, CPI (M) leader Tapan Sen said it was “news” to him that Chatterjee had different views on liberalisation. Speaking at the end — and possibly to Sen’s chagrin — former prime minister said Chatterjee followed his party leadership’s position on the issue, but he did recognise the compulsions that had led Singh to take the country in a different direction than what the Left parties wanted.

First Published: Tue, August 28 2018. 21:17 IST