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Feel-Good Factor

Feel-Good Factor

Author: L.K. Advani
Publication: India Today
Date: January 12, 2004

Introduction: Vajpayee's stewardship has been key to the Government's successes over the past six years

We have an ancient saying in India: satyam vad, or speak the truth. Over the years it has undergone a slight modification, so it now reads: speak the truth, but do so in a palatable manner.

I feel that Prime Minister Atalji personifies this quality in the best possible way. He can articulate a tough decision, respond to an awkward situation in a manner that does not create any bitterness. Managing coalitions has a lot to do with keeping people satisfied, but sometimes it is not possible to do so. The DMK has left us. However, there is no bitterness over Atalji. Some NDA constituents have left us on their own, but the prime minister has been more than generous in welcoming those who have rejoined us. Despite heading a large coalition, his capacity to accommodate diverse views is a key attribute.

Take the India-Pakistan relationship. Atalji managed to emerge unscathed, rather in a more positive light, even after the Agra summit failed to produce any results. He has also been justifiably credited for taking initiatives even though they entail a certain amount of political risk. The blame for failures is to be expected. The perception that the Atal-Advani team is a "soft-hard" combination is not a matter of any concern. In fact, it helps the country and is not a disadvantage at all.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee is the leader of the coalition and his nod is clearly necessary for any significant decision taken by the Government. Yet, it entails a detailed process of consultation; opinions are sought and expressed. If there is a point that the prime minister is particular about, I accept it. And he is gracious enough to return the compliment.

His ability to forge a consensus is coupled with a strong sense of purpose. We have just achieved important electoral victories in three large north Indian states. This, along with the spurt in economic growth, has resulted in a feel-good factor that is being widely discussed. Once again, the credit for the electoral successes should go to Atalji. His style and personality were key in being identified with the feel-good factor. He is seen as a benign influence.

If I try to define the Vajpayee Government's legacy after six years of the NDA being in office, some things stand out. Attention has been focused on development and governance. Federalism, democracy and security have been strengthened. There has hardly been a government at the Centre that has had to deal with so many parties in Parliament. Today, the states are controlled by regional parties, leftist formations and the Congress. The Government has had good working relationships with all of them.

Atalji's Government has dispelled fears that economic reforms would be discontinued or stopped. Political reforms, including the far-reaching legislation recently passed limiting the size of Central and state ministries, have been initiated. While the buoyancy in economy and stability in the Government are now being commented upon, the process truly began after the BJP won the Gujarat elections last year and followed it with an important success in Goa. The lesson was that governance matters, just as the loss in Himachal Pradesh demonstrated the importance of in-house unity.

As 2003 draws to a close, the Government is faced with several opportunities and challenges. There is, however, no room for complacency. Particularly after our recent electoral successes.

L.K. Advani, the deputy prime minister of India, spoke to Associate Editor Rajeev Deshpande

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