(This article was originally published by The Economic Times on 11/02/2019.)
New Delhi: The government will unveil a portrait of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the Central Hall of Parliament on Tuesday.
Vajpayee’s portrait will be the second one of a leader adhering to the Sangh ideology to adorn the walls of the Central Hall. The NDA government led by him had put up the portrait of Veer Savarkar. The ruling BJP-led NDA tried to appropriate the legacy of Sardar Patel, but he was a member of the Congress party.
Sources said the BJP will not hold its weekly parliamentary party meeting on February 12 before the House proceedings begin. Instead, all party MPs have been asked to be present for the unveiling of Vajpayee’s portrait.
Though Vajpayee is the BJP’s tallest leader, the party has ostensibly been playing up this card with an eye on the Lok Sabha elections. This is the last Lok Sabha session before the general election.
Vajpayee’s poetry and his photos were featured prominently at the BJP national convention at Ramlila grounds on January 11-12. The conclave had begun by paying homage to him. Vajpayee passed away on August 16, 2018, at the age of 93.
The BJP has named its meetings with grassroot workers as ‘Atal booth karyakarta sammellan’ which are addressed by party chief Amit Shah during the campaign. “Ajay Bharat, Atal BJP” is one of the key slogans of the party for the polls.
Though PM Modi remains the centre of the BJP’s Lok Sabha election campaign, Vajpayee will be given due prominence. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj had praised his role as a prime minister during the Pravasi Bharatiya celebrations in Varanasi in January. Vajpayee’s poems and his contribution as a politician are likely to be highlighted in the party’s literature being prepared for the campaign by a committee headed by Swaraj.
At a juncture when the BJP is likely to need more allies to return to power, Vajpayee is a significant role model as he successfully ran a government for a full term with the support of 24 partners. However, leaders like DMK chief MK Stalin have slammed Modi for comparing himself to Vajpayee and said his party can never be a part of an alliance led by him.