In an exclusive interview to CNN-IBN, BJP patriarch L K Advani tells CNN-IBN why he thinks former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee should be awarded a Bharat Ratna
You were the first to demand a Bharat Ratna for former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Do you think that the time has come for the new government to acknowledge those contributions?
I don’t think a Bharat Ratna is appropriate as a reward for Vajpayee has contributed to the country as a patriot well as the person assigned for the responsibility of becoming the prime minister of the country.
He did his duty and I do not think in terms of the Bharat Ratna as a reward for performing one’s duty. Though if he is given the Bharat Ratna, as I have myself suggested once, it would be very appropriate and befitting for a patriot such as Vajpayee.
Why do u think the Congress chose to be non-committal whenever the question of the Bharat Ratna for Vajpayee came up? Do you think it was only because they were weary of honouring their political opponent?
I would not attribute to that. That is something which should not be related to what a person is in public life and what role he has performed etc. It should be related to a person's general characteristics and his general stature.
One of the reasons you have cited while building a case for Vajpayee that he was the first PM to have led a stable and coalition government that completed its full tenure. Now you are seeing Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is leading a full majority govt. Do you think that era of coalition politics or coalition government is over in India?
I would not say that. I still believe that a country as diverse and varied as India may throw another such government again. It’s not very common to have a government of a kind which is single party as was there in the earlier years of Independence or even Vajpayee’s own government.
For some time it was virtually not a coalition government. It could be anything. You should be prepared for all eventualities in a country like India.
As the BJP president, you embarked on mass campaigns and took out several rath yatras, but when it came to naming prime ministerial candidate, you conceded the position to Atalji. What was the political thought behind that?
It is thought very often that I conceded the position -- it was his natural space. I always regarded him as my leader. I have been saying now these days after these interviews that for me he was a role model, 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. In fact, in his entire tenure as prime minister there is not a single aspect which I can regard to as a blot on his career.
Just as I cannot think of (Jawaharlal) Nehru being able to justify his handling of the China issue or defence. When I visited Ladakh after the China war, I was shocked to see how badly equipped our jawans were -- lacking even boots and proper dressing for the weather.
Even though I have seen books these days which says that (former prime minister) Indira Gandhi did not know the meaning of what was the implication of the Emergency. I cannot accept that and I feel that Emergency left a spot on Indiraji's otherwise outstanding career.
Vajpayee's tenure was without blemish, flawless. Having personally worked with him, I never saw even a trace of arrogance or sense of immodesty.
How would you describe him?
He was my guide. He was my friend too. But above all, he was a role model for me.