With the death of Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India has lost one of the important statesmen in its history. AB Vajpayee was not just politician but a classic statesman who was the first non-Congress PM to complete five years term. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s leadership was important as it was eventful in shaping India’s democracy and help India on the road to economic progress. An orator par excellence, AB Vajpayee gave some of the memorable speeches that will remain etched in the annals of Indian parliamentary history.
AB Vajpayee's contributions are priceless in the history of India. He is a true statesman, and a Bharat Ratna in every aspect. It was through Vajpayee’s clever politics that he changed the image of the BJP from being seen as a party with hardcore Hindutva identity. Some of the contributions are :
After Cold War and liberalization of the Indian economy, Vajpayee boosted trade and bilateral relations with the US. This initiative has led to the historic visit in 2000 by Bill Clinton, who became the first American President to visit India since Jimmy Carter in 1978. Besides promoting economic ties between India and China, he formed a new structured mechanism for high-level dialogue to resolve the border dispute between the two countries. Besides, his new policy of s ‘Look East’ policy helped in improving India’s ties with countries in South-East Asia and East Asia.
AB Vajpayee’s greatest foreign policy moves lay in his efforts to initiate peace with Pakistan. In February 19, 1999, he inaugurated the Delhi-Lahore bus service and travelled in it to meet his counterpart Nawaz Sharif. This incident is considered as the symbol of international diplomacy and Vajpayee was appreciated for his efforts. The action paved way for the two PMs to agree on the Lahore Declaration, which put forth common goals of peace and had several contents, including nuclear non-proliferation and increased trade relations.
This event is often portrayed the best achievements of Vajpayee’s reign, where nuclear bomb tests, were conducted secretly at the Pokhran Test Range in Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district in May 1998. Under Pokhran-II, five underground nuclear bomb explosions took place on May 1998, this is termed as the biggest intelligence failure in US military history. It is termed as a courageous decision made India a nuclear weapons power despite from Western Powers.
Vajpayee’s prime ministership faced the biggest test was with Kargil war with Pakistan and the defeat of the country. Operation Vijay was the name of the Indian operation to clear the Kargil sector. It was fought between May and July 1999 and was necessitated after Pakistani soldiers and armed militants belonging to Kashmir infiltrated into India across the Line of Control. The war finally came to an end after Pakistan took back its troops after suffering heavy damage. PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared the operation successful on July 14, the operation was officially declared closed on July 26, 1999. India lost more than 500 military men on the Kargil territory.
A B Vajpayee laid the foundation of Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, which made education for children aged 6 to 14 years as one among the fundamental right. The Golden Quadrilateral or “GQ” was former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s first dream project and is enshrined as the biggest infrastructure intervention in the roadways sector where world-class highways in India, connected to the four major cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. Many experts’ view that AB Vajpayee’s bigger achievements were on the economic front. His, ‘New Telecom Policy’ unleashed the telecom revolution in India by replacing fixed license fees for telecom firms with a revenue-sharing arrangement. During his tenure, the GDP rate was above 8 per cent, inflation was below 4 per cent and foreign exchange reserves were overflowing.
Apart from the Highway road project, AB Vajpayee initiated the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) for providing all-weather road connectivity to every rural habitation. Any village with a minimum population of 500 in the plains and 250-plus in hill states will provided roads. The centrally-sponsored scheme had covered a total of 1,78,184 habitations. The fact that 1,14,540 or 64 per cent of these eligible habitations actually have roads — with projects being cleared for another 30,501 — can be considered a reasonable achievement. Since its inception, PMGSY has provided connectivity of over 4,66,044 km — including upgradation of 1,67,977 km of existing roads — at an aggregate cost of Rs 1,41,822 crore as on January 2016. But the real story is not how much, but where these roads have got built.
AB Vajpayee is often known for his statesmanship. He successfully managed a grand coalition government, when coalition politics was a new to the Indian politics. He also became the first non-Congress PM to complete five years in power and the third overall. Besides, he was under constant pressure from BJP’s ideological mentor, the RSS, and other groups to push Hindutva agenda. But the BJP government needed the support of coalition partners, he couldn’t push items like construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, removal of Article 370 which gave a special status to the state of Kashmir, enforcing uniform civil code applicable to adherents of all religions.