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After riddles, time for Atal’s account

New Delhi, June 21: Atal Bihari Vajpayee is writing a book on his days as Prime Minister.

He revealed this to Shashi Tharoor, a writer and India’s nominee for the UN secretary-general’s post, when he called on him today.

“We discussed writing. I wanted him to write some more poetry when he confided in me that he is working on a book.... in fact his memoirs. So I hope the world will await that with interest,” said Tharoor, who has been meeting political leaders since his candidature was announced.

The book, a Vajpayee aide later said, is a slim, 200-250-page account of his time at the helm. “The book would most probably be out by October this year. It would be released both in Hindi and English. It is not exactly like a chronicle but details important events that took place during the NDA’s tenure,” a source said.

This coincides with Vajpayee’s sudden burst of enthusiasm in politics. He had announced last December that he was no longer interested in electoral politics, but BJP insiders said Vajpayee has been “politically hyperactive” of late. Not only did he literally force the party to change its stand on Rahul Mahajan, the former Prime Minister has been turning up at the most routine party events.

He was seen courting arrest on price rise last week, and the week before he was at a meeting of the Chhattisgarh BJP unit and state government representatives.

Now, this book is set to create a stir, covering as it does events such as the Kandahar hijack about which L.K. Advani spoke recently. Advani had hinted that he was not happy with the decision to release terrorists in exchange for hostages.

“It includes all the major events ' the Pokhran tests, the Agra summit, the Kandahar crisis and, of course, the Kargil war,” said a source close to Vajpayee. The book will give an “insider’s view” of all the big events that took place since he was first sworn in Prime Minister in 1996 in a government that lasted 13 days.

But it remains to be seen whether the memoirs of Vajpayee, the master of riddles, will be easier to decipher than his pronouncements while in power and out of it.

Those who know Vajpayee well contend that his announcement about retiring from electoral politics does not mean his political career has ended. “He has said such things umpteen times. Don’t you remember his ‘na tired, na retired’ speech after Venkaiah (M. Venkaiah Naidu) tried to project Advani as Loh Purush (iron man) against his image as Vikas Purush (development man)'

“Why do you think the BJP has still not declared its next prime ministerial candidate' As long as Vajpayeeji himself does not make that announcement, no one in the BJP would dare suggest that anybody other than him is our supreme leader and next prime ministerial candidate,” a senior BJP leader said.

This is not the first time Vajpayee has turned to writing. He is the author of Meri Sansadiya Yatra (My Days in Parliament), Sankalp Kaal (The Era of Commitment), Amar Aag Hai (The Immortal Fire), Shakti se Shanti (Peace through Power), Jansangh aur Musalman (Jan Sangh and Muslims) and Meri Ekyavan Kavitayen, a collection of 51 poems.

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