Atal Bihari Vajpayee was known for his ability to tailor his words and phrases to suit whatever situation was thrown at him. When he wanted, he was the poet appealing to intellectual sensibilities, and when it necessary to connect with the masses, he was witty and rousing in his delivery.
Here are five of his most-remembered speeches.
To the United Nations General Assembly, 1977
Vajpayee addressed the UN seven times between 1977 and 2003. Yet, it is his first speech in 1977 – which he gave in Hindi – that remains the most memorable. He was the foreign minister in the Janata Party government at the time.
To a joint session of the United States Congress, 2000
Vajpayee’s lively speech to the joint session centred on India and the US coming together on matters ranging from terrorism to science and technology and international peacekeeping.
Speeches about the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, 1998
As the head of an NDA government, Vajpayee conducted India’s second nuclear test, Pokhran-II, on May 11, 1998. “Today, at 3.45 pm, India conducted three underground nuclear tests in the Pokhran range. These tests conducted today were with a fission device, a low-yield device and a thermonuclear device,” he said in his media address.
Vajpayee went on to defend the tests in the Lok Sabha in what is considered to be one of the finest speeches made in the Indian parliament. “We have been the victims of three attacks,” he declared. “This fate should not repeat [itself]. We are not getting ready to attack anyone. We don’t have that intention.” India was hit with economic sanctions by the US and several other western powers on account of the tests.
Vajpayee’s resignation speech after the fall of his 13-day government, 1996
Vajpayee confidently read out his speech titled, “Here comes my resignation, Mr Speaker” in the Lok Sabha in 1996, only to come back to form the government two years later in 1998 and then again in 1999.
Vajpayee’s address to the nation on Independence Day, 2003
In his final Independence Day speech as Prime Minister, Vajpayee spoke in detail on national security and foreign policy, but the speech was not without his usual trademark wit, with the ending coming in the form of a poem.