What is worrying is that the political discourse is degrading election after election. The times of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Rajiv Gandhi is no more.
More than two and a half decades ago, Rajiv Gandhi the former Prime minister of India and the prominent PM candidate for the upcoming general elections was assassinated in a bomb explosion. An incident that left not only the Gandhi family but entire country in an irreparable loss. BJP’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee who was an opposition leader at that time, talking to senior journalist Karan Thapar had said, “Rajiv Gandhi is the reason I am alive today.”
“Today I’m in the Opposition and people expect me to speak like an opponent. But I can’t. I only want to talk about what he did for me,” said grieving Vajpayee. Such a camaraderie in politics is rare today. The tale behind Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement is even more fascinating and reveals a humane side of the erstwhile ruthless politics.
Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India from 1984-1989. Atal Bihari Vajpayee the leader of the opposition was suffering from a severe kidney-related ailment. Talking to Thapar Vajpayee said, ”He (Rajiv Gandhi) somehow found out I had a kidney problem and needed treatment abroad.” Vajpayee recalled that Rajiv Gandhi one day called him to his office and told him that he would be included in India’s delegation to UN. “He hoped that once I go to New York, I will get whatever treatment necessary,” Vajpayee said.
Even after coming back from the New York neither Rajiv nor Vajpayee mentioned the incident to anybody. Both played their roles as opponents in public life. However, Atal Bihari Vajpayee later sent a postcard thanking Rajiv Gandhi for this courtesy. One must notice that both remained tight-lipped about the incident until the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi when Vajpayee expressed his grief calling Rajiv Gandhi his “younger brother”.
While the then political history will be remembered for the friendship and mutual respect between politicians cutting across party lines, one wonders, what contemporary political scenario will be remembered for? Today, the political discourse is woven mostly around hateful, poisonous commentary about political opponents. Recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a rally at a Hubbli during a campaigning in Karnataka had said, “Congress leaders should be aware of their limits, they’re dealing with Modi. They won’t be spared.” The threatening language was condemned by former Prime Minister Dr Manmmohan Singh. Even during Gujrat Assembly Election, PM Modi had said that Pakistan is conspiring with Congress and is planning to make Ahmed Patel the CM of the state to keep him out. BJP National President Amit Shah had during the party foundation day event had compared the opposition to animals like rats.
What is worrying is that the political discourse is degrading election after election. The times of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Rajiv Gandhi is no more. The attacks on political opponents have become personal. On the death anniversary of Rajiv Gandhi, all the politicians need to learn a lesson from this extraordinary tale of humane gesture, more than ever.