Atal Bihari Vajpayee took opposition as rivals, not enemies
Three-term prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was exceptional when it came to maintaining cordial relations with the BJP's rivals. He did not consider any party as untouchable and wished others to do the same.
His opinion about the kind of cordial relations the ruling and opposition parties in a democracy should have is perhaps best exemplified in his reply on May 28, 1996 to the debate on Confidence Motion moved by his 13-day-old government.
Having failed to garner 272 MPs in the BJP's support and the United Front with the outside support of the Congress and the Left crossing this magic number, Vajpayee decided to tender his resignation.
However, he moved a Confidence Motion in the Lok Sabha before submitting his resignation to the then president Shankar Dayal Sharma.
Replying to the debate on the Confidence Motion, Vajpayee established himself as a statesman. Exceptional orator that he was, he used the occasion for the BJP to take a moral high ground and open the doors for the party to win more friends.
This helped the BJP to win allies before the 1999 Lok Sabha election and form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) which is still in existence under incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In his reply to the debate on the Confidence Motion, what all Vajpayee said hold true even in the present political circumstances.
He said, "There should not be polarisation in the country on the basis of communal or caste lines. The politics should not be divided into two groups where there is no communication with each other."
Atal Bihari Vajpayee said the country was facing a crisis. He said the BJP as an opposition party had always come to the rescue of the then governments whenever needed in order to overcome such crises.
He recounted how the then Congress prime minister PV Narasimha Rao, in order to put across India's point of view, had sent him in the capacity of the leader of opposition to attend the UN convention at Geneva.
"The Pakistanis were shocked to see this," Vajpayee said, adding, "and asked how have I come?"
He said the reason for the Pakistanis' disbelief emanated from the fact that their opposition leader does not come forward to help for national causes. "Because, he is always busy scheming and dislodging the government of the day," he said.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee said this was not just the tradition in India but also their nature. "And I want that this tradition and nature should remain forever," he said.
In a statesmanlike remark, he said the game of power would continue. Governments would come and go. Political parties would be formed and dissolved. But the country should survive and democracy should remain there forever, he said.
"Has not this become difficult in today's conditions?" he said, little realising that the same conditions would remain even 22 years after his remark.
Vajpayee, in an ominous remark said the debate (on Confidence Motion) would come to an end but the chapter which would start from the next day needed to be pondered over.
"This bitterness should not increase," he said.
Perhaps he had envisioned the falling political discourse in the time to come.
The below the belt personal attacks between the ruling BJP and the main opposition Congress party and even unfounded allegations against each other are the hallmark of today's politics.
This is what Vajpayee had sought to nip in the bud but perhaps failed.