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Walking (A)tall: Vajpayee mesmerises - The Economic Times

Political Bureau ()
February 3, 1998

Title: Walking (A)tall: Vajpayee mesmerises
Author: Political Bureau
Publication: The Economic Times
Date: February 3, 1998

If Sonia Gandhi has imitated Indira Gandhi's high-pitched mode of
address, A B Vajpayee only reiterated the consummate artistry of
oratory. The thinning crowds at Ambedkar Stadium retraced their
steps into the rally ground as he rose to speak even though the
star speakers were fashionably late by several hours.

But this was a crowd of voters, who hardly required the rabble
rousing of the neo-convert to exhibit their political conviction.
The orange-and-green balloons, saffron caps and scarves
notwithstanding, the air reiterated the quiet confidence of a
populace that returns its leaders to Parliament, regardless of
which side of the house they sit. A point emphasised by Vajpayee
when he talked about the integral value of the opposition to the
democratic process.

While he pulled no punches about the Congress, Vajpayee was
recognisable circumspect on the subject of Sonia Gandhi.

Despite snide remarks about 10 Janpath being the last refuge of
the stricken party, who cried out for the "Rajmata" to perform a
rescue, he maintained the restraint he has been exercising on
that particular subject.

Earlier George Fernandes of the Samata Party belted out a
variation on the "Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain theme, exhorting
the merits of swadeshi and self-reliance.

For the first time, Vajpayee actually acknowledged the rumours
about a supposed rift between him and the party president, K
Advani. It isn't the first time that this particular story is
being circulated, but the publication of a supposedly secret RSS
note about how Advani would capture the prime ministerial berth a
few months after the government was formed has evidently sent
confusing signals.

Vajpayee laughed away the suggestion of the rift, resorting to
the wellworn bogey of a conspiracy, but the message hit home.

Vajpayee also clearly delineated the battle lines as being
between the Congress and the BJP. Dismissing the UF, Vajpayee
said it was neither united nor a front, unconsciously echoing a
European statesman of more than a century ago.

Accompanied by the combined sentiments of poorly rendered
patriotism and tree-chasing romance of Hindi film songs, the
prime ministerial candidate urged the already-committed to return
all the seven Lok Sabha candidates from Delhi. Mr K Advani, in
full catchline splendour, has given the voter simple mnemonics to
keep the party hi the collective consciousness: "Bhookh, bhay,
bhashtachar (hunger, fear and corruption) - the catchwords to
catapult them to power.

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