'Vajpayee is not just prime minister, but a father figure'
December 26, 2003
Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji is going to complete five years as prime minister of the National Democratic Alliance government. And that is making the opposition parties eat their hearts out in envy.
I take great pleasure in observing that our prime minister's overall guidance has taken our country towards the path of peace, progress and prosperity.
Am I being too optimistic? My answer is no. Our economy is booming; India's international prestige is escalating; our democracy has been reaffirmed.
There are problems, yes, but which country doesn't have its quota? The thing is that these problems have not prevented the prime minister from giving a good account of his government, nationally and internationally.
Vajpayeeji's prestige has soared as never before. He simply doesn't have any peers. His [Bharatiya Janata] Party's victory in the recent assembly elections has conclusively proved that the opposition, chiefly the Congress, cannot hold a candle to him.
I have a perfect personal equation with Vajpayeeji and I can say from experience that he is the model for what a prime minister should be.
He has guided me well when the going was tough, politically or otherwise, and I appreciate his support and sagacity. When I tendered my resignation [over an internal feud in the Samata Party], he refused to accept it. That boosted my confidence that Vajpayeeji would have none other as the railway minister. I think it indicated that he had faith in my ability to handle the railway portfolio.
When I assumed charge of the ministry, the railways were on the verge of collapse. Vajpayeeji gave support for the initiatives I took, especially the Railway Safety Fund with a corpus of Rs 17,000 crore [approximately US $3.75 billion] and the Rail Vikas Yojna. This would not have been possible without his support.
I must also emphasise Vajpayeeji's support extended to me during the Godhra affair and his announcement of the technology mission [in collaboration with the Department of Science and Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur].
Vajpayeeji is not only the prime minister, but a father figure among the NDA constituents. All coalition partners speak of him very highly, not out of ulterior motives but because of his natural inclination to reach out to them all. I think that sums up Vajpayeeji's tenure as the prime minister. It will be extremely difficult for anybody else to measure up to him.
Union Railway Minister Nitish Kumar spoke to Tara Shankar Sahay.