After watching Prime Minister Narendra Modi walking in the streets of Delhi for about 4 kilometres, ignoring risks to his life, just to witness the final journey of former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one could imagine the kind of bonding that prevailed between these two.
Even though Prime Minister Narendra Modi had jumped into politics quite early in his life, he hadn’t contested elections before becoming the chief minister of Gujarat. During the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi, Modi was appointed general secretary of the “Gujarat Lok Sangharsh Samiti”, which is an RSS committee coordinating opposition to the Emergency in Gujarat.
But soon after RSS was banned, Mr Modi went into hiding. He had even adopted the attire of a monk and a Sikh to prevent arrest from Indira Gandhi government. Soon Modi gained popularity and dived into national politics. He was better known in the late 1990s for his association in “Ram Rath Yatra” in 1990 and the “Ekta Yatra” (Journey for Unity) that began the next year.
But one fine day Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was the then Prime Minister, said to Mr Modi “You must leave Delhi and go away from here”. Hearing this statement, Mr Modi was stunned. His immediate reply was “Where would I go?”. The reply given was “Gujarat”. Yes, Atal Ji wanted Modi to go back to Gujarat and take charge of the state.
Mr Modi was asked to reach 7, Race Course Road (now 7, Lok Kalyan Marg), the residence of the Prime Minister, on October 1, 2001 by the then PM Atal Ji. As soon as Mr Modi reached the residence, he pointed at Atal ji and said he had gained weight. But the then PM jokingly said it was due to “Punjabi food”.
As the discussion progressed, Atal Ji urged Mr Modi to take charge of the state of chief minister. Though Modi didn’t agree initially, after consulting the BJP stalwart LK Advani, he agreed to take charge of his home state. Atal ji had taken such a decision after he was impressed by Modi’s strategy in the 1995 and 1998 elections in
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the catalyst that made Narendra Modi the Prime Minister of India. Following 1995 assembly election in Gujarat, Narendra Modi had been called to New Delhi by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership.
Modi was then made the national secretary of the BJP with responsibility of party activities in Haryana and Himachal Pradesh. When mid-term poll happened in Gujarat in 1998, Modi was in New Delhi but played his part in selection of the candidates. Vajpayee was very impressed by his election strategy-making in both 1995 and 1998 elections.
At the turn of the century, the then Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel’s health was failing and his administration faltering. A massive earthquake hit Gujarat on the Republic Day in 2001. The Patel government was found wanting over the next six-eight months in dealing with the challenges posed by the natural calamity that killed between 15,000 and 20,000 people.
Against this background, Narendra Modi received a message from the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi was asked to reach 7, Race Course Road (now 7, Lok Kalyan Marg) – the residence of the Prime Minister. Modi had been asked to be there as soon as he could.
A perplexed Narendra Modi reached 7, RCR and before he could make himself comfortable, Atal Bihari Vajpayee said to the rattled visitor: “You must leave Delhi and go away from here.”
Modi was shocked and asked, “Where would I go?”
The answer from Atal Bihari Vajpayee was one-word long: “Gujarat.”
Few days later on October 7, 2001, Narendra Modi took oath as the Gujarat chief minister replacing Keshubhai Patel. Four and a half months later, Gujarat plunged into a massive communal violence following a train burning incident – killing 58 kar sevaks returning from Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh – in February 2002. According to state government’s official figures, 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus were killed in the communal riots in 2002 across Gujarat. Independent estimates put the number of deaths, mostly of Muslims, at around 2000.
Reacting to Gujarat communal riots of 2002, Atal Bihari Vajpayee advised Narendra Modi at a press conference to follow “rajdharma”. Sitting beside, Modi interjected to say that he was actually following the same rajdharma to which Vajpayee gave his nod saying, “yes he is doing that”.
Narendra Modi served as Gujarat chief minister three times taking the BJP to assembly election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2012. His track record as the Gujarat chief minister created a Modi wave in 2014 Lok Sabha elections and made him the Prime Minister of India.
Unfortunately, even after giving an extremely splendid governance, Atal Ji was not re-elected for a second term. Let’s not do the same mistake with PM Narendra Modi.