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When Rajiv Gandhi saved Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s life

When Rajiv Gandhi saved Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s life

 

Former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi included Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the official delegation for the UN meet in 1988 so that the then Opposition leader could get treatment for his kidney ailment in the US.

  • Atal Bihari Vajpayee had serious kidney ailment in 1980s
  • Rajiv Gandhi included Vajpayee in his delegation to the UN
  • Rajiv Gandhi told Vajpayee to use time to get proper treatment

Two former prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi and Atal Bihari Vajpayee shared special bonding despite representing the opposite stream of Indian politics. Atal Bihari Vajpayee was nearly 20 years older to Rajiv Gandhi and considered him a younger brother. Vajpayee said this himself a few days after the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi in 1991.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee had made another revelation after the death of Rajiv Gandhi. In an interview, he had said that Rajiv Gandhi was the reason why he was alive. The statement came as a surprise as at the time of Rajiv Gandhis death, the BJP and the Congress were in bitter fight for political domination. The Congress had a formidable presence while the BJP was making inroads in the Hindi heartland.

The story goes back to 1988. Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a serious kidney ailment. He had already lost one of his kidneys in 1985.He was again battling with another kidney problem. According to Atal Bihari Vajpayees narrative, Rajiv Gandhi came to know about his kidney problem and made sure that he was treated in the US.

“When Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister, he somehow found out I had a kidney problem and needed treatment abroad. One day he called me to his office and said he was going to include me in India’s delegation to the UN and hoped I would use the opportunity to get the treatment I needed. I went to New York and that is one reason I am alive today, Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been quoted in a book, titled The Untold Vajpayee: Politician and Paradox by journalist Ullekh NP.

Rajiv Gandhi instructed his officials that Atal Bihari Vajpayee would come back from the US only after he had received treatment for his kidney ailment. Ten years later, Vajpayee again travelled to the US for treatment of his kidney. But this time, Vajpayee was the prime minister himself.

When Rajiv Gandhi helped Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he was a member of the Rajya Sabha then having lost the 1984 Lok Sabha election to Madhavrao Scindia from Gwalior. Rajiv Gandhi had won a brutal majority of more than 410 seats in the Lok Sabha for the Congress riding on a sympathy wave following the assassination of Indira Gandhi.

Rajiv Gandhi never spoke about the real reason why Atal Bihari Vajpayee was included in the Indian delegation fto the UN. Vajpayee revealed only in his statement paying tribute to Rajiv Gandhi. The US trip by Rajiv Gandhi in 1988 was best known his impassioned speech at the United Nations arguing for total nuclear disarmament.

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