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'Atalji loves to laugh his heart out'

By Vijay Goel
August 16, 2018 20:56 IST
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'He has sacrificed a lot. Always done something for others. But never asked for anything in return.'
Union Minister Vijay Goel remembers Atalji.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee

I do not remember when I met Vajpayeeji for the first time. I do remember, however, that when I was in school I used to walk from Roop Nagar in north Delhi to the Ramlila Maidan whenever I came to know that Atalji is going to address a rally.

That was the time he used to be leader of the erstwhile Jan Sangh. His speeches made us laugh and cry. His words kept resounding in my ears long after the rallies were over.

During the Emergency, Atalji my father Charti Lal Goel, a leader of the Jan Sangh, and I were in prison.

When I became president of the Delhi University Students Union years later, I used to get cards printed and then go and tell Atalji, "Cards print ho gaye hain, ab to aap ko aana hi padega (Now that the cards have been printed you will have to come). He never disappointed me.

I am indebted to Vajpayeeji because he has always showered his love and affection on me.

Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, who ruled India till May 1964, became India's prime minister because he had sacrificed a lot for the nation during the freedom struggle.

Vajpayeeji for 50 years toured the length and breadth of the country to win the love and affection of the people.

He is the tallest of all Indian politicians in the country today. There is no one who can match him in statesmanship.

I have rarely seen him lose his cool.

Once I asked him, aap ko gussa nahin atta? (Don't you get angry?). He said he does get angry, but likes to channelise his anger through something constructive.

He is a man with a vision.

While making his peace offer at a public rally in Kashmir in April this year (2003), he said this was his last effort. His efforts seem to be paying off.

He is the one who can resolve the mandir issue as well.

When Musharraf was here to hold talks with Vajpayeeji on Kashmir in Agra and held a press conference, there was a furore. Everyone wanted Vajpayeeji to hold a press conference. But he did not do that. Now look where Vajpayeeji is and where Musharraf is.

India as a nation has become a world power under his able leadership. He has taken some bold stands, which at times were not liked by the superpowers.

 

I recall when he and Advaniji walked alongside my mare at my wedding. Vajpayeeji may not be married himself, but he has seen many others get married.

I adore him as a politician, prime minister, and elder statesman.

He is a simple man. He is what he is. He loves to laugh his heart out, but the position he holds prevents him from doing that now.

I will never forget the day when Atalji took along with him Advaniji, Vijay Kumar Malhotra and the late Kanwar Lal Gupta to meet the President of India to register his protest against my expulsion from Delhi University.

I had been punished for leading a students movement. That day I realised how much Atalji loved me.

Then minister of state in the prime minister's office Vijay Goel, left, with then parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan welcome then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Parliament House on the first day of the winter session, November 19, 2001 Photograph: Ranjan Basu/Saab Press

IMAGE: Then minister of state in the prime minister's office Vijay Goel, left, with then parliamentary affairs minister Pramod Mahajan welcome then prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee at Parliament House on the first day of the winter session, November 19, 2001 Photograph: Ranjan Basu/Saab Press

When he took over as prime minister of India, his first public appearance was at my house where he along with all the members of his Cabinet were present.

Very few people know that the poet Atal Bihari Vajpayee loves to listen to other poets as well.

Once, when he did not get any other means of transport to go to the Red Fort for a mushaira, he hired a tonga to reach his destination.

That is my leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He has sacrificed a lot. Always done something for the others. But never asked for anything in return.

This feature was first published on Rediff.com on December 23, 2003.
Vijay Goel, then Union minister of state for youth affairs and sports, spoke to Rediff.com's Onkar Singh.

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