Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The Last of the Moderates


Atal Bihari Vajpayee: The Last of the Moderates

Illustration: Akshita Monga


n December 5, 1992 in Aminabad, Lucknow an agitated Atal Bihari Vajpayee took to the dais to give a speech that was equal parts rousing and hateful. “There were sharp stones that came out, no one can sit there (Ayodhya), the ground has to be levelled, it has to be made fit for sitting,” he said. This was before the time when leaders speaking in dogwhistles was routine. The next day the Babri Masjid was razed to the ground by vandals who called themselves kar sevaks.

December 6, 1992 turned out to be a seismic event in Indian socio-political-cultural life, perhaps even its greatest tipping point since the Partition. For Vajpayee, though, the combative speech would become one of the lowest points of his career, something he would openly apologise for days later, confirming that at least in retrospect he was one of India’s last moderate men of politics.