It is a common saying that there are no friends in politics. But however, there are always some exceptions to this and this time around we have one more example of our Ex-PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani's friendship.
LK Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee shared a rare friendship in the political circle. Advani once described Vajpayee as the country’s most outstanding prime minister. They entered politics almost at the same time and remained each other’s trusted advisor and friend. Advani served as India’s Deputy PM and Home Minister in the Vajpayee-led government of the National Democratic Alliance between 1998-2004.
Advani, in his autobiography, My Country My Life, spoke about his political journey in Delhi where he started work as a political aide to Vajpayee, who had just been elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time. "It is during these two decades that I gained advanced experience in political organisation, political strategy and leadership," said Advani.
Vajpayee and Advani, whose friendship goes back to the 1950s, are credited to have helped build the Bharatiya Jana Sangha. The BJP was formed on 5-6 April 1980, after it broke away from the Janata Party.
Advani explains the stress of the coalition in his autobiography, “The stress from the beginning was not on harking back to our Jana Sangh past but on making a new beginning.”
Throughout his autobiography, Advani praises Vajpayee's leadership. "Some of them, such as the bold decision to make India a nuclear power and our sincere efforts to normalise relations with Pakistan in spite of the latter’s betrayal, will have a permanent place in our country’s history. History will record that India became a stronger nation, and a more self-confident nation, under Atalji’s visionary leadership," he said.
According to a leading daily, Advani said that "Vajpayee's six years as prime minister were better for India's development than the long rule of Congress' prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi."
On May 2013, Advani had also released a blog on the BJP’s website, describing Vajpayee as the country’s most outstanding prime minister. In his blog, he criticized Manmohan Singh government and praised Vajpayee's ability to create three new states without any disturbance. "Under Vajpayee ji the NDA divided three major States – Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and created three new States – Chhattisgarh, Uttarakhand and Jharkhand without even a ripple of disturbance."
In an interview, Advani termed Vajpayee a "great consensus builder" and that his legacy of consensus building was very important for all parties. Advani said he had written to then prime minister Manmohan Singh, saying Vajpayee deserves Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour, and that he would feel "grateful and happy" if the government acceded to his request. The letter listed 10 reasons for giving the honour to Vajpayee.
"He (Manmohan Singh) may have considered it or not but I feel I would not have written such a letter today. It would seem I was demanding it as our government is in place," he said.
Advani said, "In Vajpayee's entire tenure as PM there is not one single aspect which I can regard as been a blot on him in his career." He also spoke about how he conceded being the prime ministerial candidate for Vajpayee.
"Very often it is thought that I conceded the space, but it was his natural space. I always regarded him as my leader. I, in fact, have been saying now these days after these interviews that for me he was a role model. How the leader of the country should be like. Both in respect of his attitude to issues as well as in respect above all his absolute modesty and humility even when he could credit himself with many achievements," he said.
Vajpayee had the Army use its full might to quell the Kargil operation, which was the General’s own adventure. And he followed it up by another brave move: an invitation to the General for talks at Agra.
Advani had once revealed that during their younger days, the two would often go to eat ‘gol-gappas’ on the streets, with Advani driving the scooter and Vajpayee riding pillion. He reportedly said, "And I remember those days, Rivoli and Regal (cinema halls), in the middle was a golgappawala. We would go there and have chaat. Those days, I would drive the scooter and he (Vajpayee) would ride pillion. I was not particular about chaat. But he (Vajpayee) would sit beside the chaatwala and eat, also golgappas."
The former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee breathed his last on Thursday in All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital in Delhi. He was admitted to AIIMS on 11 June and his health deteriorated on Wednesday.