When Vajpayee got Nehru’s portrait restored in South Block
A portrait of Indias first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had once gone missing from the South Block in the late 70s, but it was restored following the intervention of the then foreign minister, Atal Bihari Vaypayee
New Delhi: A portrait of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru had once gone missing from the South Block in the late 70s, but it was restored following the intervention of the then foreign minister, Atal Bihari Vaypayee.
Vajpayee had shared this anecdote in a speech in Parliament and praised Nehru for his ability to take criticism from others. "Friends in Congress may not believe this, but a portrait of Nehru would hang in South Block.
I would see it whenever I passed by," he had said in his speech. Vajpayee also said that there used to be sparring with Nehruji in Parliament. "At that time, I was new, and would sit back in the House.
Sometime to get an opportunity to speak, I also would have to stage a walk out," he had recalled. "Then I made a place for myself and moved ahead. And, when I became the foreign minister, I saw that the portrait was missing from the gallery," he said.
Vajpayee, who died at the AIIMS on Thursday after prolonged illness, was the foreign minister from March 1977 to July 1979 in the Morarji Desai government. "I then asked where did it (portrait) go? I got no reply. That portrait was restored," Vajpayee had said, drawing applause in the House.
In his speech, Vajpayee then asked if people respected such sentiments. "Should such sentiments germinate? (Kya is bhavna ki kadra hai? Kya is desh mey ye bhavna panpe?)"
"It is not that there were no differences of opinion between us. And, it would surface seriously during discussions," he said.
"Once I had told Panditji that his personality was mixed in nature, and that there was both a (Winston) Churchill and a (Neville) Chamberlain in him," the veteran politician said, adding that Nehru was "not upset" at that.
"In the evening, I met him at a banquet, and he (Nehru) told me it was a solid speech and walked away smiling. Today, to do such criticism is to invite enmity. People will stop talking," Vajpayee had said.