With the death of the Indian liberal’s favourite Hindutva eye candy – Atal Bihari Vajpayee, there will be an incessant barrage of condolences flowing and eulogies published across the political spectrum to showcase the man in the brightest shades possible and his contribution to Indian politics will also be magnified manifold. It’s usually what happens whenever a political stalwart, a banyan tree falls. People forget their political differences, antagonisms and pretend to lose someone they have loved, despite despising the person throughout their lifetime.
So, you will find the Congressmen and the parliamentary left eulogising Atal Bihari Vajpayee, lifting him to great heights as a parliamentarian, as a liberal Hindutva fascist (if ever such an oxymoron exists) and comparing his period to the present reign of Narendra Modi to discredit the latter. The BJP will highlight Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “contributions” to “nation-building” and will showcase the present Narendra Modi-led regime as one that’s sincerely realising the dreams of the late former prime minister. While, there will be people within the BJP, especially those in the camp of Lal Krishna Advani, Vajpayee’s long-term companion-cum-competitor within the party, who is now cast to the oblivion by the Narendra Modi–Amit Shah clique, will keep grumbling about the lack of “democracy” under Modi’s rule and will glorify the Vajpayee era as the only “golden era” during the BJP’s hitherto stint in Indian politics.
Amidst these multi-current discourse on Atal Bihari Vajpayee after the nonagenarian passed away in AIIMS, New Delhi, on 16 August 2018, there remains a dire need to do a critical and objective analysis of Atal Bihari Vajpayee from a dialectical materialist approach, which most editorials of this country’s rapidly shrinking free media space will be reluctant to undertake. We will try to analyse Vajpayee, his politics and his agenda in the following paragraphs to provide that very analysis, which most people in the left, democratic and anti-fascist camp will demand and the analysis that the mainstream will not provide them.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a multi-coloured man and to judge him by the standards set for Narendra Modi or Amit Shah won’t be correct or do justice to the icon of modern Hindutva fascism. With his face fixed at the top rank of Sangh pantheon, Vajpayee can’t be forgotten by Modified India soon. He was the man who was instrumental in uplifting the BJP from a party of two MPs to a brutal ruling party of the country, now with almost all states but few under its jackboot; it’s expected that with an earthshaking victory in 2019 general election, Narendra Modi will be on the highway to transform India officially into a Brahmanical hegemonic Hindutva kingdom. This will be the climax of Vajpayee’s dreams, something for which he, Advani and many other Sangh men spent their whole life spreading vitriol against the minority Muslim community.
The BJP claims that Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a freedom fighter in a desperate attempt to brush aside the correct allegation by its opponents that it betrayed the national anti-colonial struggle of the people by aligning with the British imperialism. The opposition of the RSS to the Quit India Movement is well known. Though the communists also boycotted the movement for the sake of focusing on defeating the fascist Axis Power in the Second World War, the RSS was all for the preservation of the British rule in India. As a young man, Vajpayee was arrested for taking part in the Quit India Movement in Bateshwar on 27 August 1942. While he was presented before the magistrate in Agra, Vajpayee confessed about the movement in the area but denied participating in it and claimed that he only went with his brother to see what was happening. Vajpayee testified against two leading organisers of the movement in his area and thereby became the cause of their conviction.
Years later, Vajpayee had contradicted several times while discussing the issue, on which Manini Chatterjee and VK Ramachandran did an incredible investigation that was published by Frontline 20 years ago when the entire press was still not the slave of the government’s whims. It’s not accidental that Vajpayee testified against the leaders of an agitation during the Quit India Movement, as he would try to defend himself later to save his political career. When he was testifying before a British magistrate, he was already a college student who had spent four years as a cadre of the Hindutva fascist RSS. As a staunch RSS man, he was vehemently an opponent of the Quit India Movement and supported the prolonging of the British rule on India. It’s alleged that Vajpayee even joined the communist student’s organisation – AISF in the same period to spy on the communists on behalf of the British movement, however, due to fear of getting caught he had to quit the organisation. This incident of helping the British colonial rulers had played a crucial part in building his political career in service of big foreign monopoly and finance capital in the later period.
For years, the Brahmanical ruling classes have constructed an image of an intellectual out of Atal Bihari Vajpayee by using his past brief stint as a PTI journalist and his tryst with Hindi poetry. Though there have been remarkably great poets of Hindi language who never found any mention like him, Vajpayee found a special focus because he happened to be the only remarkable fascist leader with a poetic side in the RSS’ camp at a time when the left was having dominance in the sphere of art, culture and literature.
His poetry, mostly rife with Hindutva lexicon, only inspired the hardcore Hindutva fanatics to whom he preached the skewed version of nationalism formulated by the British stooges like Savarkar, Hedgewar and Golwalkar. Sans any remarkable erudite mind when the RSS was rebuked and ignored by most as a mediocre and non-lethal ideological school in the 1960s and 1970s, people like Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the sole suave face of the RSS. Under the shadow of people like Deen Dayal Upadhyay, Vinayak Savarkar and MS Golwalkar, Atal Bihari Vajpayee became a stern follower of the Hindutva fascist ideology that has been promoting communal hatred, bigotry and spreading xenophobia since last one century.
Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, a mastermind behind India’s partition and a Hindutva hate monger who played a crucial role in instigating the infamous riots in Bengal leading to the partition of India, picked up a young Atal Bihari Vajpayee as his assistant and paved way for the latter to become a stalwart of the party that Mookerjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyay later formed to build up a separate political outfit from the RSS when the latter was banned by the Nehru-led government following the assassination of MK Gandhi. Atal Bihari Vajpayee worked under the shadow of Deen Dayal Upadhyay all his life until Upadhyay was found murdered in Mughalsarai of Uttar Pradesh in 1968. Though the court later observed that there was no politics behind the death of Deen Dayal Upadhyay, the RSS and Jan Sangh organised a private enquiry and blamed communists and “communalists” (Muslims) of joining hands to murder Upadhyay. The death of Deen Dayal Upadhyay paved the way for Vajpayee to become an all-India leader of the Jan Sangh with which the non-Congress right-wing and pseudo-socialists didn’t want to relate until the 1970s.
During the era of Nehru to Lal Bahadur Shastri, Atal Bihari Vajpayee remained unnoticeable except for his oratory skills in the parliament. His rise was steady from the 1970s when he took to himself the task of supporting Indira Gandhi’s war with Pakistan and called her “Durga” for her militarist supremacy. In the period between 1971 and 1974, the anti-Congress political space was usurped by the right-wing forces like Congress (O), BLD, Socialist Party and the Jan Sangh following the brutal suppression of the Naxalbari rebellion by the Indira Gandhi regime. The anti-establishment sentiment of the people of India from 1974 onwards was capitalised to build-up a massive movement against Indira Gandhi’s regime by different right-wing organisations.
As the political battle between Indira Gandhi and her opponents was a reflection of the behind-the-scenes battle between the Soviet Union and the US to turn India into a neo-colony. While Indira Gandhi tied India with the Soviet Union and turned it into a satellite country of Moscow, the US and the CIA were attempting to turn India into their fiefdom but Mrs Gandhi was fiddling with them, not allowing their monopoly on the Indian market. The US approached the opposition and promised it money and propaganda support if it could topple the Indira Gandhi regime and help the US to foray into the Indian market as a key player, including the crucial public sector industries, the military establishment and the agriculture sector.
The RSS and the Jan Sangh, along with outfits like the Hindu Mahasabha, were loyal lackeys of the US and its Western allies. The Hindutva fascist camp supported the US imperialist aggression on different countries and considered Washington DC as its master. Only the BJS and the RSS supported the Zionist Israeli terrorist regime and its aggression on Palestine even when India didn’t officially recognise Tel Aviv and aligned with Palestine by vouching for its liberation. The shameless bootlicking by the Sangh Parivar, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as their key leader, made the US select the RSS as one of its key pawns in Indian politics. Jayaprakash Narayan, Morarji Desai and other right-wing leaders were the other favourites of the American camp.
During the height of anti-Congress movement of 1974-75, Jayaprakash Narayan, a self-styled Gandhist and a staunch anti-communist approached the Jan Sangh and the RSS for support in his endeavour to topple Indira Gandhi’s regime. So far no political party approached the Jan Sangh or the RSS officially to save themselves from the stain of communalism that comes naturally as a collateral damage. Jayaprakash Narayan went a mile ahead and invited the Jan Sangh to participate in his movement and legitimised its fascist outlook by mainstreaming it. The RSS’ huge cadre base and a strong student organisation like the ABVP, made Jayaprakash Narayan bring the Hindutva fascist outfit into his rainbow coalition to oust Indira Gandhi and there, Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a killing by becoming one of the accidental heroes of the anti-emergency struggle that followed.
The mainstream media and the RSS-influenced revisionist historians always portray a larger-than-life image of Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the 20-month-long emergency period, when Indira Gandhi demolished democracy officially and imposed a tyrannical rule on the people. Thousands of political opponents were arrested and thrown behind the bars, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Jayaprakash Narayan. Though the communist prisoners, especially the Naxalites, were brutally tortured and killed without waiting for the mockery of trial inside jails and police custody, the RSS men enjoyed an opulent lifestyle behind the bars.
Many fables over Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s imprisonment were published since 1977, however, it’s BJP’s loose cannon and eminent grise Subramanian Swamy, who was with the Janata Parivar during the emergency period, revealed that Atal Bihari Vajpayee remained mostly out of the jail during the emergency period. Even when he was imprisoned, it was in a guest house and not a jail. The RSS was at the verge of leaving the Janata camp, according to Swamy and sign a treaty of surrender with Indira Gandhi when the latter declared elections in 1977. It was then that Vajpayee and the RSS steeled their alliance with Jayaprakash Narayan and became a part of the Janata Party founded by him and others like Morarji Desai and Chaudhary Charan Singh.
Due to his policy of appeasing the RSS-led Sangh Parivar for support, Jayaprakash Narayan didn’t demand the single membership and absolute allegiance from Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani when they joined the Janata Party. Both Vajpayee and Advani swore allegiance to the RSS and helped the RSS grow manifold after the Janata Government was formed in 1977. As the foreign minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee used his clout to help the RSS to penetrate deep inside the Indian Foreign Office and other government departments, especially in home ministry. Vajpayee, the communal Vajpayee, used the opportunity of his ministry to expand the Hindutva fascist influence on India and place the stepping stones through which the RSS would seize power in the future.
When the constituents of the Janata Parivar objected to the retention of RSS membership by the men like Atal Bihari Vajpayee who came from the erstwhile Jan Sangh, the latter didn’t give up the communal fascist identity to acquire a new, democratic and liberal identity, rather by using the occasion to polarise the unsusceptible Hindus using diatribe against the Muslim community, Vajpayee and his followers came out of the Janata Party and formed the BJP, the present ruling party in the 1980s. The BJP didn’t become merely a parliamentary outfit of the RSS, it became the most crucial political weapon of the Hindutva fascist fountainhead under Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani, which would execute the communal conspiracies of the RSS through the parliamentary route.
Throughout the period of emergency and later, Atal Bihari Vajpayee didn’t desist from communal hate mongering and used each occasion to farther the Sangh’s crooked politics and vitiate the atmosphere. As a very cunning politician, Vajpayee ensured that the BJP capitalise on the anger of the people at the failures of the Congress and the Janata Party in meeting their needs and divert the anger towards the Muslims, Christians and other groups by portraying them as foes of Indian people, the “other” threatening the existence of “Hindusthani” people.
In February 1983, Atal Bihari Vajpayee delivered a fierce hate speech in Assam, in which he incited the militant chauvinists to kill the Bengali people, who were stamped as “foreigners” by the fascist organisations. His speech actually paved the way for the infamous Nellie genocide, in which 1800 Bengalis (official figure, unofficially somewhere between 9,000 to 10,000), mostly Bengali Muslims of Lower Assam’s Nagaon area, were butchered by chauvinist fascist organisations. After a decade, it was CPI MP, late Indrajit Gupta, who exposed the heinous role played by Vajpayee in the very massacre, which is the root cause of the NRC drafting and rendering of four million people stateless and without citizenship in 2018.
Indrajit Gupta quoted Vajpayee’s notorious speech before the Nellie massacre during a parliamentary debate:
“Foreigners have come here; and the Government does nothing. What if they had come into Punjab instead, people would have chopped them into pieces and thrown them away.” (sic)
These words were indeed uttered by the very favourite icon of the liberal democrats who think that only Modi and his coterie are the wrong things happening to the BJP, while people like Vajpayee always valued “pluralism” and “secularism” during their tenure. Atal Bihari Vajpayee left no stone unturned to prove himself as a communal venom spitter.
After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the RSS played a crucial role in helping the Congress organise a large-scale pogrom against the Sikh community in Delhi and elsewhere. Vajpayee was instrumental in fanning the anti-Sikh riots and the RSS managed to garner the support of a section of the Sikh community in North India by masquerading as a Sikh sympathiser after the pogrom was over and used the pent-up anger of the Sikh community against the Congress to build its own support base within the community. In return of its support to the Congress during the pogrom, the RSS, through the pressure of the US, made Rajiv Gandhi, who was taking India from the Soviet camp to the American camp, open the gates of the Babri Masjid for daily worship service by Hindu priests.
The waning of the Soviet control on India due to the war in Afghanistan, the crisis in Eastern Europe and the subsequent fall of the revisionist rule in Moscow and its satellite states, gave ample opportunity to the US to select its B team in India should the Congress fail to serve it. The RSS and the BJP were the forerunners and major contender for the title, while the non-Congress and non-Hindutva rightwing were divided and fragmented in many pieces due to the contradiction between leaders for their personal aggrandisement. In a span of few years, armed with American funding and direct support, Vajpayee and Advani fanned the Ram Janmabhoomi movement with extreme vigour to divide Indian people on communal lines forever.
Ram Janmabhoomi movement is often credited to Advani and his Hindutva rabble-rouser pawns. However, Vajpayee played an equally crucial role during the rise of militant Hindutva fascism. In the video below, he can be heard addressing the Karsevaks, the thousands of Hindutva fanatics and goons hired by the RSS and the VHP to demolish the Babri Masjid, when they assembled in Ayodhya in 1992. In his speech, he called for levelling the ground, a metaphor used to refer to the demolition of the 15th-century mosque which stood in Ayodhya at that time.
Soon after 6 December 1992, when the Babri Masjid was demolished according to a well-planned conspiracy hatched by the RSS, the VHP, the CIA and Mossad, Vajpayee called the incident an unfortunate incident by referring to the Babri Masjid as a “disputed structure”, a crypto sign that the ardent Hindutva fanatic in him didn’t ever want the Babri Masjid to stand. In the video interview given to Pranoy Roy of NDTV, Vajpayee blamed a “section of the Karsevaks” to divert attention from the heinous conspiracy that was in play and the active participation of the RSS leadership along with VHP, Bajrang Dal and BJP members in demolishing the Babri Masjid, one of the unique and most audacious terrorist attack on the secular fabric of India done in the years from 1947.
(Video Credit: NDTV)
Certainly, despite his apologetic tone, Vajpayee remained unapologetic at heart for the demolition, which can be seen from his assertion in 2003 that the RSS-led Hindutva camp will be able to build the Ram Temple at the same place, which transformed into the dreaded slogan of the present-day Hindutva fascist camp – “Mandir Wahin Banayenge”. Criticising the Muslims indirectly, he said:
“Good sense will prevail even on those who are opposing it… We feel confident in front of his funeral pyre.”
Vajpayee said this while attending the funeral of Ram Janmabhoomi Nyas president Mahant Ramchandra Das Paramhans, one of the top organisers of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement and an architect of Babri Masjid demolition. Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s liberal mask gave away several times after the Babri Masjid demolition to reveal his grotesque ardent Hindutva fascist character.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s zeal to become the prime minister drove him into desperation and he even formed the shortest-duration government of only 13 days, despite knowing that the post-Babri demolition opposition was gathering numbers against him. Vajpayee used his lieutenant Pramod Mahajan, whose role is now played by Amit Shah, to buy support for the minority BJP government but when Mahajan couldn’t gather the required numbers Vajpayee had to step down. The tall talks of “moral ground” and “principles” are all hoax to guard the reality, i.e. the numbers were not arranged and he couldn’t have survived the majority test anyways.
When he returned to power in 1998, Vajpayee took two very crucial steps to turn the people’s attention from growing unemployment, skyrocketing inflation and a sickening economy. Firstly, he used the Pokhran II nuclear tests to start a dirty nuclear race in the subcontinent between India and Pakistan and thereby spent billions of rupees behind nuclear weapons. The resultant economic deficit, trade blockades and other reprimands were burdened on the people with jingoistic slogans to ensure that the government’s shortcomings are not noticed and the people consider the nuclear tests as some sort of achievements of “nationhood”. Secondly, when his government fell due to the manoeuvres by Subramanian Swamy (now a hardcore Hindutva advocate), Sonia Gandhi and Jayalalitha, he was left with no credit scores to win a midterm election in 1999 and that’s when he took the route of Kargil War to fan chauvinism and xenophobia throughout the country to polarise voters. It was during his reign as the prime minister between 1999 to 2004, India started transgressing officially against the Muslims and made the community “the other” by systematic exclusion, vengeance and vitriol.
Under his close watch, Narendra Modi, who was appointed as the Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001 by the RSS to tackle the growing anti-incumbent sentiments against the BJP due to its utmost failure in the post-Gujarat earthquake relief work, ignited the flames of India’s most heinous state-sponsored anti-Muslim genocide in the state. Unofficially, more than 2,000 Muslims were killed by an organised mob of Hindutva fanatics guarded by the Brahmanical police force in the pogrom organised from 28 February 2002 onwards. Vajpayee’s role during and after the riots is mostly highlighted by the centrist and right-wing media to draw an artificial differentiation line between him and Narendra Modi, who is no one but one ardent fan and follower of Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself.
The mainstream media, controlled by the big corporate houses, always talk about Vajpayee advising Narendra Modi to uphold “Rajdharma”, i.e. play the role of an impartial king. However, they forget themselves that by quoting this choice of wording by Vajpayee they are themselves agreeing that the former prime minister didn’t consider a chief minister as a servant of the people but a ruler. Secondly, unlike the unverified grapevines in the media world regarding Vajpayee and Advani’s face-off over Narendra Modi and the Gujarat pogrom, Vajpayee actually endorsed the Gujarat pogrom by blaming the Muslim community for the violence. Soon after the Gujarat pogrom, when condemnations and demands of Narendra Modi’s dismissal grew strong throughout the country, Vajpayee himself delivered a very Islamophobic speech in Gujarat, blaming the Muslim community of being “terrorist” in the same way, which rabble-rousers like Yogi Adityanath, Sakshi Maharaj or Sadhvi Prachi would use today. Very soon, the PMO morphed the video of the programme and tried to play down the incident as they do now to save Narendra Modi from facing disappointment.
A lot of praises are heaped upon Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his approach on Kashmir. His rhetoric – “Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat and Kashmiriyat” is still considered as a guiding stone for an effective Kashmir policy by the present dispensation and many Vajpayee apologist scribes. Vajpayee said that “Jamhooriyat, Insaniyat and Kashmiriyat” will be the approach of his government to deal with the Kashmir issue, however, it was not a spontaneous move, rather, it was a carefully prepared strategy to buy time in the valley, strongly militarise Kashmir and through a barrage of incessant xenophobic campaigns through tv, cinemas and other mediums, legitimise the colonisation of Kashmir by India. His concept of “Kashmiriyat” never had any takers in Kashmir and the Kashmiris waited up to 2008 in vain to see any positive step taken by the Indian rulers in favour of a political resolution of the Kashmir issue. Despite his attempts to first pull in former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and then military dictator Pervez Musharraf into a pact over Kashmir, the entire show of resolving the Kashmir impasse with Pakistan was a hogwash as there was no seriousness (and there can’t be any) on part of the RSS or the BJP to resolve the Kashmir issue.
Under the premiership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee the anti-China xenophobia found new revitalisation through rantings of corrupt former defence minister George Fernandez. In the foreign policy front, Vajpayee entangled India in misadventures with Pakistan and the entire Indian subcontinent, just to entice the jingoistic spirit of the rabid Hindutva fanatic mob, his core votebank. It’s not that he fulfilled the lust of the militarist Indian ruling classes by involving India in military muscle flexing, but he also offered India as a military base to the US and entered into a subservient relationship with Washington DC, which developed manifold in the last 15 years. Also, it was under Vajpayee’s rule that India entered into an evil nexus with Zionist Israeli terrorists and the government officially adopted Islamophobia as the state’s security principle.
Between 1998 to 2004, Atal Bihari Vajpayee opened the gates of Indian economy before the big foreign corporations and allowed foreign capital to rule over all sectors of the economy by running an unbridled and unapologetic privatisation drive. The “reform programme” undertaken by Vajpayee at the turn of the century broadened the scope of imperialist loot and plunder in India and allowed the foreign corporations to exploit Indian labour with utmost impunity and even without paying taxes at many places. Walking on the footsteps of Vajpayee, the Manmohan Singh-led UPA I and II regimes and the present-day Modi regime have allowed the big foreign monopoly and finance capital along with their Indian comprador and crony lackeys to virtually rule over India, annex the land of the farmers and exploit the workers without any boundation.
From liberalisation of economy, privatisation of public sector units to benefit big corporations enrich themselves using the assets created using the wealth of the people, to the legitimisation of crony capitalism at all levels, from pushing fuel prices to a market mechanism from a control mechanism to rapid privatisation of education, banking, insurance, healthcare and telecom are some of the gifts of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the “pragmatic” heartthrob of the centrists; gifts that are still forcing Indian economy to sink deeper into the mire of crisis. The inequality between the richer few and the poorest many became steep and India, despite becoming a “hot investment destination”, couldn’t scale better on human development, poverty reduction or other global aspects, thanks to Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his vision of enslaving India to big foreign investment and loans.
This Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a man who lived and served foreign capital and upheld Hindutva fascism no less evil than a regular Hindutva fanatic. Under no circumstances, he should be called a “democrat” or a “liberal” just for murmuring few poetries laced with high traces of contaminated “nationalism” of the RSS trend. Despite a barrage of eulogies and praises heaped from all hues of parliamentary opportunism, Vajpayee can’t be separated from the inalienable Sanghi bigot that lived within him and drove him to be the apple of the eyes of millions of Hindutva fascists who are now running the country with an iron fist and their bigoted worldview. India needs no Vajpayee, the “liberal statesman” he wasn’t, but India needs more sensible, progressive, impartial, secular, democratic and above-all, strongly anti-fascist politicians who can establish an egalitarian, socialist and secular rule in the country to hasten the progress and development of the poor and the exploited people. No Hindutva fascist was a friend of India or democracy and in the days to come, none would be. Adieu Atal Bihari Vajpayee without regrets.
An avid reader and a merciless political analyst. When not writing then either reading something, debating something or sipping espresso with a dash of cream. Street photographer. Tweets as @la_muckraker