An exemplary story from an impeccable political career of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee

The word "politician” immediately brings certain adjectives to the minds of people- corrupt, ruthless, untrustworthy etc.- but cooperative, patriotic, and selfless are some very few would pick. Here is an exemplary story from the impeccable political life of the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee or Atalji- probably the best prime minster India has ever had, and sometimes would ever have. This is a story of a conspiracy by the top leaders of opposing political parties, “conspiring" to cover up a controversy for the cause of national insterest- a cause very rare to be heard of in these days of filthy political blame games.

Image source: http://punjab.bjp.org/leadership/shri-atal-bihari-vajpayee/

In 1996, when Narasimha Rao government was approaching the final days, a probable defence scam was brought to surface through a story by the Indian Express. It was the Sukhoi fighter jet deal with the Russians. As with any large scale defence deals, much like the Rafael jet controversy doing its rounds now, the opposition- BJP- was quick to take up the controversy and protests started errupting. The deal was perceived as a probable fund-raiser for the upcoming election campaign of Narasimha Rao. Else why was there a hurry to sign such a significant deal, which otherwise would have taken a sweet amount of time?

However all of a suddent BJP became mute on the issue. The controversy was settled abruptly. Meanwhile, in the 1996 elections, BJP won the elections although the term lasted only 13 days and had to step down owing to a non-confidence motion. The H D Deve Gowda’s coalition came in power, with Mulayam Singh Yadav as the new defence minister and the deal was finally closed, without any tremors and BJP still maintaining low on the whole controversy which they have picked up earlier. A few years down the line, the same Sukhoi happens to be the back born of the Indian Air Force and one of the power-boosters of Indian security strategy.

Image source: By U.S. Air Force photo/ Airman 1st Class Ryan Crane - http://www.mountainhome.af.mil/shared/media/photodb/photos/080717-F-1142C-188.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4429614

Much later, the famous journalist Shehar Gupta uncovered the exemplary part of the story much less heard of. The deal was definitely hurried, and a large advance payment was made in the last days of the Rao government. Someone did indeed wanted money from the deal- just that it was neither Rao, nor any other Indian politician. The Sukhoi factory in Russia was too broke to pay the salary to its employees, and an advance payment would ensure the salaries be paid, and the payment could be adjusted later in the pricing. Nevertheless, the aircraft was indeed good. All this was a diplomatic decision in favour of Boris Yettsin who was heading for elections and the Sukhoi factory happened to be in his constituency.

When Vajpayee learnt that the deal has had merit, he decided to keep quiet. Later when the coalition government came to power, Atalji and Jaswant Singh were briefed by the defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav on the deal, earlier cleared by Narasimha Rao and executed by the then finance minister Manmohan Singh. Thus the top leadership of opposing polical and ideological segments “conspired” to have open talk, and keep confidence in each other and at the end, indeed did all for the larger national interest. Vajpayee is even said to have personally requested the Indian Express to avoid the story, because if published, it could hamper the ability to communicate across party lines, even on issues involving greater national interests.

Such exemplary harmony and coordination between leaders of opposing political ideologies can be contrasted against the immature political blame games as in case of the contemporary Rafael fighter jet deal to value the relevance of such selfless political confidence. On this day when the greatest leader India has witnessed left us for the eternal world leaving a void in Indian politics, I pray that his soul rest in peace. May his life continue to inspire generations irrespective of their political ideologies.

References

  1. The Print: https://theprint.in/opinion/how-four-great-indians-from-rival-parties-saved-sukhoi-30/17913/