Atal Bihari Vajpayee was not in favour of advancing 2004 polls, feared defeat, says his long-time aide

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Then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajapyee was not in favour of advancing the Lok Sabha election in 2004 as he feared defeat but an overconfident BJP still decided to go for it, says his long-time aide Shiv Kumar Pareek, recognisable to everyone by his handlebar moustache. Pareek also feels that the coordination that existed between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and workers during the Vajpayee era is now missing. There were two reasons behind the (2004) defeat. First, the slogan of India Shining went against us. The second was the decision to hold early polls. Although Atalji was not in favour of early polls, the party decided to hold it, Shiv Kumar, who had been with Vajpayee through thick and thin for over five decades and was his virtual shadow, told IANS in an interview. He disclosed that Vajpayee had sensed the BJPs defeat in 2004, a day before he cast his vote in the last election he ever contested. Sarkar to gayi. Hum haar rahe hain (The government is going. We are losing), Vajpayee told Shiv Kumar after returning from an election campaign in Lucknow around midnight. He said when he countered that a defeat was not possible, Vajpayee replied: In which world are you living in? I am campaigning among people. Asked about the performance of the Modi government and whether it was following the path shown by Vajpayee, Shiv Kumar said: Its a political question. When I praise someone, I do it wholeheartedly, and when I criticise something, I do it to the fullest as well. Walking on Ataljis path means living the way he lived, treating everyone the way he did and performing like he did as a Prime Minister. I hope they will follow his path. He added that it was due to the foundation laid by Vajpayee that the BJP not only crossed the half-way mark in 2014 but also became the first ever non-Congress party to a simple majority on its own. Besides the Centre, the BJP is now ruling 19 states. If the foundations are strong, the structure will be steady. Asked whether the country could see another Vajpayee, Shiv Kumar said: I believe that an artisan may create any idol, whether of Lord Ram or Hanuman or Ma Durga, but people will not bow before it until it is consecrated and installed in a temple. Atalji used to do the same with the karyakartas. In the present situation there is nobody who does it. The coordination that existed between the party and the workers during the Vajpayee era is missing now. Shiv Kumar said the Modi government was doing a good job and taking ahead Vajpayees initiatives. This government is also bringing a lot of new schemes. In 2019, the people of this country will judge this government. Is there any difference between the Shining India campaign and Modis New India slogan? He said: Vajpayee was running a coalition government of 24 parties while Modi is running a majority government with BJP being in power in 19 states. Although an atmosphere against it is being created, the BJP will emerge victorious. The number of seats may go down but it will not be defeated. Shiv Kumar rejected suggestions that Vajpayee kept himself away from active politics due to the shock defeat in 2004. Atalji was never bothered about victory or defeat. You must have heard his famous poem – Na haar me na jeet me, kinchit nahi bhaybheet mai. After defeat he attended the BJPs National Executive meet in Mumbai where he declared his retirement from active politics. After that he kept himself confined to attending limited functions of his closest ones. He remained active till Bhairon Singh Shekhawat contested the presidential elections in 2007. Asked whether Vajpayee really wanted Modi removed as Chief Minister of Gujarat post the riots in Godhra, Shiv Kumar replied: Vajpayee wanted him (Modi) to follow Rajdharma (rule of law). Shiv Kumar, who saw Vajpayee from very close quarters, said the late leaders life was like an open book. I am an orphan now, he said, referring to Vajpayees passing away. He was the only person besides the family who was allowed on Vajpayees cremation platform. I was an RSS worker. Later I became a worker of the Jan Sangh. After Shyama Prasad Mukerjees death in mysterious circumstances, I approached Atalji and expressed my willingness to work with him as a caretaker. He was non-committal initially. Finally, he agreed and I started working with him in 1967. He said this was how he got associated with Vajpayee till his last breath. If you look for the ideals of Lord Ram, the energy of Lord Krishna, the policies of Chanakya in one man, he was Atal Bihari Vajpayee. According to Shiv Kumar, Vajpayee used to watch movies, listen to songs and see Marathi plays at his 3, Krishna Menon Marg residence for 14 long years after he demitted office as Prime Minister and from where he was taken to hospital where he died.