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Demanding bequest

Editorial |

The finale to the epic that was Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the challenge thrown to the Indian political class to live up to the accolades showered upon him in their eulogies by establishing the sincerity of their words, putting an end to the divisive politicking that is threatening to rip the national fabric to shreds.

True that for the past several years he was too ill to participate in public affairs, yet those who now are making so much of his myriad qualities will prove themselves hypocrites if they do not endeavour to imbibe, and exhibit, the qualities that marked him distinct.

Without actually having said so, the Vajpayee-aura demands that there is no squandering of his unique bequest. For there is no doubt that he would have been appalled at the polarised, confrontationist nature of present-day politics.

There was no place in his being for hatred of any kind, and both those who claim to be following in the path of the party he helped found as well as their rivals would be betraying his legacy if they failed to rise above raging differences and restore dignity and grace to the national debate.

Never since the passing of Nehru, and perhaps Shastri, has there been such an outpouring of tribute as what flowed from across party lines to hail the singular qualities of Vajpayee ~ a failure to try and put those ideals into practice would expose today’s politicians as hollow charlatans.

To reiterate the tributes flowing from across the globe would be futile, repetitive. Rather, it would be best to demand accountability from those making pretence to leadership, pressuring them to restore to national life the genteel, civil, humane qualities that he always exuded.

Emulating him would be a tall order, he belonged to another era, an era of statesmen: yet nothing should prevent the political leadership from attempting to keep alive the spirit of the freedom struggle, the early years of a troubled Republic, and while obviously retaining their competitive edge robustly resist the bitterness of contemporary politics.

There is no room for talk of ram zadars or haram zadars, “suitboot sarkar”, neech and all the other invective that has now assumed parliamentary status.

It might appear arrogant to suggest who should lead the way to a return to the Vajpayee era, but surely there cannot be looking far beyond the second Prime Minister to bear the NDA tag. No doubt that will have to be reciprocated, and that too across the political spectrum.

Yes, Mr Narendra Modi is burdened with leading the way. He owes it to himself and the BJP to break the shackles that constrain contemporary politics to the gutter.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee will long be remembered, but if those memories are to extend to the next generation today’s leaders will have to mend their ways, and emulate their icon by learning to “cool it”.