AB Vajpayee visited museums, art galleries and even nightclubs in 1960, says his new biography.
In his first trip to the US in 1960, Atal Bihari Vajpayee befriended a young IFS officer posted in the permanent mission of India to the UN and explored New York with him, visiting museums, art galleries and even nightclubs, says a new biography of the former Prime Minister.
Vajpayee went to the US on an invitation from the American government to be an observer during the presidential election campaign between John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon and was also part of a delegation chosen by the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru for the UN General Assembly session.
Abhishek Choudhary, in the first of his two-volume memoir "Vajpayee: The Ascent of the Hindu Right", says that on the morning of September 25, 1960, Vajpayee boarded a plane for Washington DC, his first foreign trip.
"The invitation from the American government was for him to be present as an observer during the ongoing presidential election campaign. As reported in the 'Organiser', he was also invited for his 'special interest in the welfare of the Railway labour'. The mouthpiece did not mention another, perhaps the more important, reason for Vajpayee's visit: Nehru had included him in the list of delegates for the UN General Assembly session," he writes.
According to the author, for most of his stay in New York, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in the company of IFS officer Maharajakrishna Rasgotra.
"When not at the UN headquarters, Vajpayee divided his time writing (dutifully dispatching all his experiences for the RSS mouthpieces) and exploring the city with Rasgotra. An expert on decolonization, Rasgotra deepened the Jan Sanghi's understanding of the UN. In return, the MP shared nuggets from his parliament life," the book, published by Picador India, says.
"They were both eligible bachelors in their early thirties, and also had some light camaraderie. Rasgotra took him to museums and art galleries, but these did not evoke any great interest in the young Jan Sanghi. A few times Rasgotra also took him to nightclubs. It was not clear to Vajpayee what a nightclub was exactly.
"Rasgotra assured him that it was not a strip club: 'Nagn nritya nahin hota hai. You would get to see what shape modern music is taking - there is jazz, instrumental, local music.' Vajpayee got excited: 'Chaliye, yeh bhi ek nayi duniya hai.' On such informal outings he drank a peg or two," Choudhary writes.
The author says despite looming large on the political scene, Vajpayee remains the most enigmatic Indian politician of recent times.
"Early in my research, I found a key to his enigma: beyond the traditional cliches and the occasional snippets, we know little of value about the first half of his six-decade-long career. Upon understanding his early life, his dilemmas and doublespeak begin to fall into a pattern. This book, first of a two-volume study, attempts to fill that void," he writes in the preface.
Mr Choudhary says his first task here was to establish that the early Vajpayee was "far more critical to the Sangh Parivar's project of Hinduising India than is universally believed".
"My second aim is to fix some basic facts from the first half of Vajpayee's life, which have been lost to myth and misinformation," he writes in the book which he insists is an assessment of Vajpayee's life and not a tribute.
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)