Silchar: Atal Bihari Vajpayee is no more. This is part of the eternal journey. But, people of Barak Valley have particular attachment for him as they recall his many a contribution towards the development of the then most economically backward region of south Assam, nay in the entire northeast.
Politically, Vajpayeeji was instrumental in giving a firm footing to BJP in this valley. The patriarch of the saffron party, Kabindra Purkayastha, was initiated to take up the onerous responsibility for organizational work in order to make BJP the party of great reckoning.
It was at his call that Purkayastha left the job of the principal of a higher secondary school and joined active politics in the early 1980's.
The 87 year old Purkayastha, known as the founding father of BJP in northeast, left no stone unturned to give a concrete shape to the party from almost a scratch. It was no doubt a Herculean task as the valley was predominantly a Congress bastion. But, hard work and his uncanny ability to organize, mobilize and galvanize party workers from the booth level brought the miracle when the citadel of Congress was almost shaken with a sort of 'saffron surge'. It was in the general elections of 1991 when BJP won both the Lok Sabha seats of Silchar and Karimganj, besides netting 9 of the 15 assembly seats.
The faith and confidence that Vajpayeeji reposed in Kabindra Purkayastha truly paid off. From all accounts, BJP has emerged as a formidable challenge to Congress and AIUDF. Even the bitterest critics of the party could not even dream of that BJP would be the ruling party at Dispur. It became possible without any exaggeration due mainly to the spade and ground work of Purkayastha. The colossus personality of the nonagenarian continues to inspire and encourage both the rank and file of the party and the party is growing. Without mincing any words, Vajpayeeji had selected the man rightly and placed him also rightly.
Very much impressed by the meteoric rise of BJP in this valley, Atal Bihari Vajpayee who became Prime Minister for the third time with full five year term could not forget Barak Valley when development was on the agenda of his government. Along with a number of highways and super highways across the country, he approved his ambitious dream project of East-West Corridor from Silchar to Saurashtra. Cynics of the opposition scoffed at this project, dubbing it impractical and unthinkable. But, now the Corridor is going to be a reality despite all the adversities of the mountainous region of Dima Hasao district.
During his several visits to this remote corner of the northeast, he realized the problem of surface communication which impelled Vajpayeeji to think of the super highway and also the internal links. Silchar bypass to connect national highway 6 with NH 54, now fast progressing, was also his dream project. Kabindra Purkayastha said Vajpayeeji was all concerned about the development of this valley. When completed, Silchar town would be relieved of everyday traffic congestion. The network of BG railway lines was also a great push and drive of Atal Bihari Vajpayee as Prime Minister. It is no doubt a matter of pride that 18 railway projects have come up. More are in the pipeline. It was Vajpayeeji that Kabindra Purkayastha was inducted as the Minister of Telecommunications in his ministry and it is admitted even today the sea-change that has come in telecommunication sector was all his tireless efforts.
Before Vajpayeeji became Prime Minister, he visited Silchar and other parts of the valley. With mediapersons, he was quite friendly and discussed with them the issues and problems of the area. During one of his press-meets at the Silchar Circuit House, journalists still recollect how he was well conversant with the political developments of northeast as a whole which he discussed freely and frankly with a touch of humour. This scribe remembers how he took a jibe at a journalist for focusing on insurgency as if there was no other issue for discussion. The veteran journalist, Atin Das, still remembers his several visits to this town and his interactions with media.