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A PM Who Put Politics Aside

He was ‘the Prime Minister of his time’, that is the best way I would rate him as a prime minister

Photo Credit : PTI

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I don’t think the relationship between us was bitter at any point of time. He was one of those great Opposition leaders who earned every bit of respect from all the people. He was one of those people from the Opposition who got along very well with me as a Congress chief minister. His mannerism, his politeness — it was remarkable. It was not narrow at all. He was a great patriot.

Let me share a personal experience which is rare in nature. When Delhi’s power system had to be privatised and, in fact, CNG had to be introduced in Delhi, it was he who always pushed me for its implementation. “You should go ahead with this, it is for the national capital. Delhi is the pride of the entire nation, don’t delay things,” he would often say.

He never let me feel as a Congress member. He was way above the party system of politics, the differences in governance. I was CM of Delhi and he was the PM, and it was natural for differences to crop up. But for us, it was never that way.

I would rather say that for him Delhi was the national capital more than a state ruled by the Congress party. He was not the prime minister of BJP or NDA; he was the prime minister of India.

He was such a kind person and I never had any experience with him where he even once said, “Sorry this can’t be done.” He never denied me anything if he believed it was in the national interest. Nation came first for him. Whenever he felt like giving his advice for the well-being of Delhi, he used to tell us freely. He would put things in such a beautiful manner that you never felt you were being criticised for something. It was his art of communicating things to everyone.

He happened to be very cordial, there was never an occasion when we felt we were being isolated. The central government always had its seat in Delhi but, as I said, it was never like Congress and BJP. Things never stopped coming to us because of politics. If something was good for Delhi, it was just good for Delhi.

He was ‘the Prime Minister of his time’, that is the best way I would rate him as a prime minister. As long as he was prime minister he never gave the impression of being from a particular party. That’s why I say he was for all and for the nation. He was prime minister first and everything else after that, this is how I can describe him.

He was always a well-behaved man, whenever he used to call us for meetings. In fact, he used to treat me as the guest of honour. I remember those lovely tea-time snacks. Atalji used to say: “Bring that snack, Sheilaji loves it.” It was that personal touch and enduring goodwill he always shared with us.  

As told to Prabodh Krishna