Kalam was an “unconventional President”, a “man of technology’’ who endeared himself to million
Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari on said that former President Dr. A.P.J. Kalam was a “man of technology’’ who not only contributed to the progress of defence research organisations but had a way with younger people and motivated them.
Speaking after releasing the book “The People’s President A P J Abdul Kalam’’, written by S,M. Khan who had served as Press Secretary to Dr. Kalam during his presidency from 2002-2007, the Vice President said the book presents an insider’s account and is an important document chronicling different aspects of Dr. Kalam’s life. “Dr. Kalam always showed an eagerness to reach out to the younger generation and students,’’ he said. It was in July last year that Dr. Kalam collapsed and died following a massive heart attack while delivering a lecture in Shillong. Ironically, he breathed his last among young students whom he much adored and loved to spend his time interacting with them and teaching them to keep their dreams alive and realise them.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley described Dr. Kalam as an “unconventional President’’ with an “unconventional mind’’ who always had a vibrant air of positivity around him. “He was not cynical and exuded positiveness and was very positive about India’s bright future and wanted to see India as a developed nation by 2020,’’ the Finance Minister said.
Mr. Jaitley also recalled his numerous interactions with Dr. Kalam during his presidential tenure at Rashtrapati Bhavan, saying his style and simplicity charmed the people. He recalled Dr. Kalam’s interaction with students in Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) in Delhi University when moments after emarking in his car he rushed back for an impromptu photo session with the 20 students who had asked him questions. “Such was his simple and spontaneous nature and unconventional approach as President,’’ he recalled.
Another interesting anecdote, Mr. Jaitley said, pertained to the dissolution of the Lok Sabha in 2004 by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. Mr. Jaitley said that he and the Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee had to spend quite some time with Dr. Kalam answering his queries relating to Constitutional provisions. He described Mr. Khan, the author, as a balanced, fair, conscientious and committed civil servant who has served in different capacities in the Indian Information Service and is currently Registrar General of Newspapers in India (RNI).
Mr. Khan said that he had made an attempt in the book to pen down various facets of Dr. Kalam’s life during his tenure in Rashtrapati Bhavan. Dr. Kalam was an inspiration for scientists and it was his vision of the series of missiles that produced Agni, Prithvi, Trishul and Nag, Mr. Khan recalled.
“Dr. Kalam’s accessibility and generous humanism made him immensely popular among people. He developed a grip over legal, judicial and constitutional issues. He was the first President to have returned a bill to the Lok Sabha for reconsideration under Article 111 but when Lok Sabha sent it back to him, he took just a few days to sign it and did not sit over it,’’ Mr. Khan said.
He narrated an incident when a student asked him about population growth in the country. “I am innocent. I have not added to the population,’’ was Dr. Kalam’s witty reply . However, later he explained the problem in detail. Another question which he faced often was about the highlight of the Indian civilization to which his answer used to be “real open mind, tolerant mindset and pluralism,’’, Mr. Khan reveals in the book which is replete with many such instances.
While Dr. Kalam was at ease with students and children, he also enjoyed his breakfast sessions with MPs in Rashtrapati Bhavan. He studied Quran and Gita with equal ease and attention and also played Veena.