A new biography of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the former Prime Minister of India, sheds light on his first trip to the United States in 1960. According to the book titled “Vajpayee: The Ascent of the Hindu Right” by Abhishek Choudhary, Vajpayee formed a close friendship with a young Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer during his visit to New York.
Vajpayee had traveled to the US at the invitation of the American government to observe the presidential election campaign between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon. He was also selected by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to be part of the Indian delegation for the UN General Assembly session.
During his stay in New York, Vajpayee spent most of his time in the company of Maharajakrishna Rasgotra, the IFS officer. Rasgotra, an expert on decolonization, deepened Vajpayee’s understanding of the United Nations, while Vajpayee shared insights from his parliamentary experiences.
The book reveals that the two men, both eligible bachelors in their early thirties, explored the city together, visiting museums, art galleries, and even nightclubs. Rasgotra introduced Vajpayee to the vibrant music scene, assuring him that nightclubs were not strip clubs but places where modern music, including jazz and local music, could be enjoyed. Vajpayee, intrigued by the prospect of experiencing a new world, enthusiastically joined Rasgotra on these outings, occasionally enjoying a drink or two.
Choudhary, the author of the biography, describes Vajpayee as an enigmatic figure in Indian politics, and his aim with this two-volume study is to uncover the lesser-known aspects of Vajpayee’s early life and career. He believes that understanding Vajpayee’s formative years will provide insights into his subsequent political journey and shed light on his dilemmas and doublespeak.
This biography seeks to establish that Vajpayee played a more critical role in the Hinduizing project of the Sangh Parivar than commonly believed. It also aims to dispel myths and misinformation surrounding the early years of Vajpayee’s life.
Overall, this captivating account of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s first trip to the US provides a fascinating glimpse into the personal and intellectual development of one of India’s most influential political leaders.