(Kuradi Chandrasekhara Kalkura*)
Known for ready wit and humor, when asked: “Why have you not married?” even before the question was completed: “I did not know that the children would love me so much. If I had known it, I would have married. It is a late realization, ” Atal Bihari Vajpayee unarmed the questioner.
When a purse of Rs.1,00,000 as party fund was presented, he quipped: “Am I so cheap a person?”. The workers had to collect on the spot another lakh.
He visited Kurnool to canvass the 1980 mid-term poll to the Lok Sabha.
Charan Singh caused the defeat of the Morarji government and Sanjeeva Reddy administered Oath of Office to Singh as the Prime Minister. The Mministry fell and a mid-term poll was necessitated for the Lok Sabha.
Vajpayee visited Kurnool to campaign for the party. In a public meeting, he said: “Southern ‘son of the soil’ (Neelam Sanjeev Reddy) colluded with the ‘Northern son of the soil’ (Charan Singh). Hence this election. Last time in 1977 you committed a mistake in electing that Southern son of the soil for the Lok Sabha. I hope this time you will not repeat the mistake.” (Out of 42 Lok Sabha seats in Andhra Pradesh only Nandyal where Sajeeva Reddy won as the Janata candidate. Rest went in favour of the Party.)
That day, he was suffering from high fever. Kurnool Dhanvanthari, Dr N Ramachandra Rao, Prof of Medicine, Kurnool Medical college was summoned at the instance of the candidate P.Mallikarjuna Sasthry and the local RSS supremos MDY Ramamurthy, advocate and hotelier, I Ramadas Bhat. The doctor advised him rest. Vajpayee said: “Body is yours; (Pointing his finger at the Party leaders) mind is theirs; what shall I do?”
Doctor Rao said: “Mind does not cooperate if the body is weak!” Even at that serious moment Vajpayee said: “You cut jokes at me also, I shall follow a middle path.” He just attended the meeting, addressed the gathering and returned to the Guest House. There was no sign of body weakness in his speech.
Equally a serious man, Vajpayee, a poet himself, whether in public meetings or table talks or committee meetings or in Parliamentary debates, was known for quoting Hindi and (Urdu) couplets form Sufi poets. Inviting the Pakistani President, Musharaff for a negotiated settlement to ease the strained relationship, he concluded his letter with a sufi lyric: Gufthaphoo band na ho; baath se baath chale.” (ఘుఫ్తఫూ బంద్ న హొ; బాత్ సె బాత్ చలె – Let not the conversation be stopped; talks lead to discussions).
(feature Photo courtesy Dainik Bhaskar)
*Kuradi Chandrasekhara Kalkura is an advocate from Kurnool)