Arun Jaitley recalls his time with Atal, ‘the quintessential gentleman’

New Delhi: Remembering former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee as a “quintessential gentleman,” Union minister Arun Jaitley on Friday said the BJP patriarch accepted criticism and valued consensus because he was a product of parliamentary democracy. Mr Jaitley said while Mr Vajpayee’s demise is referred to by many as end of an era but it is a “continuation of the era of which he was one who laid the foundation.”

The BJP patriarch, 93, passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on Thursday after a prolonged illness. In a blog post titled Atalji, the Quintessential Gentle-man – How he made a difference?, Mr Jaitley, who was a minister in the Vajpayee government said “Atalji’s demise is referred to by many as end of an era. I, however, consider it as a continuation of the era of which he was one who laid the foundation.” He said the essential aspect of Vajpayee’s political journey, true to his name “Atal” was the determination.

“In the world’s largest democracy only the Congress Party dominated in the first few decades. Atalji created an alternative, which in the last two decades became larger and bigger than the Congress. Along with (L.K.) Advaniji, he created a second line leaders both in the Centre and the states,” said the minister adding that Mr Vajpayee  was always open to ideas and gave priority to national interest.

“…(he) was always at ease in dealing with both friends and opponents and never allowed himself to get into any petty controversy,” said the minister, who is recuperating after a kidney transplant surgery.  The Pokhran Nuclear Test in 1998 was a defining moment of the Vajpayee's government and he also went out of the way to work for peace with Pakistan. “When the need arose, he inflicted a severe blow to it in Kargil. Both Pokhran and Kargil were his high points…. On the economic front, he was a liberaliser. National Highway, better infrastructure, are evidence of this,” Mr Jaitley said. 

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