Atal-Bihari-Vajpayee atal-bihari-vajpayee-pm

 

Atal Bihai Vajpayee was the Prime Minister of India from 1998 to 2004. In my opinion he was the best Prime Minister India has had. He was at the head of a coalition (NDA) and had to depend on his allies to execute. His Raj Dharma and coalition Dharma  policies were very successful. He served a full term without a whiff of corruption.

His signature Telecom reforms transformed in India. All the current internet based entrepreneurial activity in India is because of these reforms. The new telecom policy went in to effect on Jan. 2001. There were 17 million land lines and one million mobile phones on the day the policy was announced. By the end of the first year of the policy, India still had 17 million land lines where as Mobile phone had grown to about 80 million. By the end of 2013 India had 904 million mobile numbers and only 29 million land lines. The telecom policy was developed in co-operation with Tie in Silicon Valley. Its main feature was licenses were freely given to all comers, Government had revenue share model where it got 7% of the revenue. Operators were not allowed to sit on the license and had to initiate the service within a year.

Telecom was not the only sector which was reformed under Vajpayee. He initiated the Golden Quadrilateral road building program to build expressways connecting four major metros of New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata. In addition to that he initiated Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna to build secondary connectors. Other reforms included: Airline sector, Finance Sector and Automobile Sector. He carried out the biggest privatization of the public sector also. These reforms gave Indian economy a booster shot that lasted till 2008. Annual economic growth reached almost 10%. Most of the growth came after the elections of 2004 which UPA won. Growth under UPA was mostly because what NDA had done as there were no reforms at all under UPA!

The other big bang change under NDA was India going nuclear overtly in 2008. After initial furor, world powers came to accept India as a legitimate member of the nuclear club. His foreign policy innovations included a Bus trip to Lahore and warming up towards United States. First of these backfired when Pakistan army aggressed along the LOC in J&K but the second one was rewarded handsomely with US-India civilian nuclear deal.

Vajpayee was a transformational  figure. For that I rate him the best prime minister India has had. I give him 9.5 on scale of 1 to 10. The only reason I hold back half a point is his initial failure to curb Gujarat riots and his fulminations about Muslims.

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