'He is a man of vision and commitment'
December 23, 2003
Vajpayeeji will be completing six years in office as prime minister of India in March 2004. What I find admirable about him is that he is one of those politicians who has grown in stature each day that he has spent in public life. He is a man who can rise above party interests when required. He has a big vision, he is large-hearted. He broadly thinks of the system. He thinks of the institutions. He has great commitment to the parliamentary process. He has great commitment to values.
He is one of the few politicians in India who truly has a world vision. I have had the opportunity of travelling with him globally and have seen for myself the sharp rise in his stature as country after country treats him as an elder statesman. This is something remarkable.
He is one prime minister who spends a lot of time in Parliament. In every session there are at least one or two occasions when he makes personal interventions. During the session he is always available in his room in Parliament House for anything that may emerge. He has great commitment to parliamentary democracy. He is also a man who makes personal accommodations. This is why he has been able to lead a 24 party alliance. None of the alliance partners is in a position to speak against him. Running such a large coalition is challenging, but he has been able to do it successfully.
Vajpayeeji has been guiding the party. He is almost a personification of the party. He is unquestionably the top leader of the party. His very name and presence inspires it. The party in turn has personal and emotive regard for Vajpayeeji. I first saw him as a schoolboy in 1967 when he was campaigning for the Jan Sangh in the capital. My vision of him then was of a great orator, a man of great wit and humour. I was still young then.
In the early seventies, when I was in student politics, I started dealing with him as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. He was understanding, kind-hearted. He could draw inspirational crowds. We saw him lead the struggle against the Emergency. We saw him rise in stature in 1977 as minister for external affairs in Morarji Desai's government. He started from scratch when the Bharatiya Janata Party came into being. We saw him at the opening session of the party in Mumbai.
A man of tireless energy, Vajpayeeji has been rising to great heights. One area which impresses me tremendously is his commitment to economic reforms. Normally it is the younger politicians who are committed to economic reforms. At his age he is the man who has forced the pace of economic reforms in India.
He has reached a stage where the office does not add anything more to his personality. I can tell you that in the Cabinet he allows the freest of discussions. He is a true democrat. I can share with you this information that we, the ministers, do not receive instructions to decide a matter this way or that. He allows us full freedom to function.
Talking of his handling of international affairs, I would say that he had inherited a policy where Kashmir was always the core issue. He singularly converted cross-border terrorism into the core issue. As a result, India has far more friends now that it has ever had in the past. His stature is respected by all nations, including America. His vision travels beyond party or national lines.
Arun Jaitley is Union minister for commerce and law, justice and company affairs
As told to Onkar Singh