Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a very unique personality. I knew him even before he became Prime Minister, when he came to the United States as part of the United Nations delegation from India. I had the privilege holding community receptions for him every time he came to this country from 1998 to 2004, along with a number of Indian-American organizations.
I also had the privilege of very personal interactions with him where we discussed politics in India and how it has evolved since independence. I realized why people often referred to him as a ‘Renaissance Man.’ He had this poetic language in expressing himself — even while making firm points. And he always gave us a deep perspective.
During those conversations, I understood – he was the master of coalitions. I remember him saying that even if one party won an election, it should know how to work with others. He was the driving force in bringing parties together.
When I went with President Bill Clinton’s delegation to India in 2000, it was the Holi festival. All of us went to Mr. Vajpayee’s home for dinner to celebrate the festival. All the political parties were there, and opposition leaders were there too, including Sonia Gandhi. One could see the respect in which they held Vajpayeeji.
As India mourns his death, I am hoping it will also proceed on the road that Vajpayee Ji paved for the country of my birth – where leaders have differences, but agree to disagree and work together for the greater good.