A fierce critic of Nehru, Vajpayee was also the man who delivered the most stirring eulogy of India’s first Prime Minister in 1964, drawing comparisons with Lord Ram and calling him India’s beloved Prince. Later, when he became the first non-Congress foreign minister, he got Nehru’s portrait reinstalled after some underlings had it removed in a bid to ingratiate themselves with Vajpayee.
Man for all reasons:
It was Vajpayee who was handpicked by then PM Narasimha Rao of the Congress to head the Indian delegation at the UN human rights commission’s session in Geneva in 1994, where the Pakistani delegation was going all out to get India labelled as a human rights violator in Jammu and Kashmir (Pakistan’s resolution was defeated).
Peace, if desirable; war, if necessary:
The progenitor of the famous daily bus service between Delhi and Lahore in February 1999, Vajpayee — about whom Nawaz Sharif, then Pakistan PM, quipped that the Indian PM could even win an election in Pakistan — didn’t shy away from ordering Indian troops to reclaim the heights of Kargil a few months later when Islamabad sent troops to occupy the Indian territory.
Apology but never apologetic:
Vajpayee even apologised on record for the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992 — an incident that led to widespread communal riots that killed 2,000 people — though in 2000, as PM, he said constructing a temple there was a “national aspiration”.
Always right, never left out:
In 2003, when the US was preparing to invade Iraq and gather allies, there were reports of India considering to send its troops to back the US against Saddam Hussein. But PM Vajpayee craftily suggested to the Communist leaders Harkishan Singh Surjeet and AB Bardhan that since no protests were being held against the proposal, the government was left with little option but to accede to the US demands; the following day countrywide protests launched by the Left parties gave the PM the much-needed geo-political lifeline to counter the US pressure.