When asked why he never chose to marry, former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had said, “I didn’t find the time.” It is perhaps rare for politicians to separate their personal and public lives, but the three-time Prime Minister, who passed away today due to prolonged illness , managed to do so, triumphantly.
Throughout the 1960s, Vajpayee lived with the Kaul family for several years in Delhi, adopting their daughters, Nandita and Namita, as his own. Rajkumari Kaul, in particular, was an indispensable figure throughout his life, yet the details of their friendship continue to endure speculation.
In an article for The Telegraph, K.P. Nayer writes, “Of all the members of every prime ministerial household since freedom put together, Auntie (as she was known by those who had access to her home) was the most understated, but her worth was known to those who knew the intricacies and organigram of Vajpayee’s private life.”
In the late 1970s when Vajpayee was appointed as the External Affairs Minister in Morarji Desai’s Janata government, the Kaul family moved into his home in Lutyens’ Delhi. Their unique living situation sparked quite a few rumours, which multiplied after the untimely demise of Mr. Kaul.
Nonetheless, Vajpayee’s immense popularity and political influence meant that the press never treated his relationship with the Kauls as a significant problem. Besides, he was known to intervene whenever anybody slandered the family’s reputation. One such example includes the time when a BJP leader allegedly referred to Rajkumari as the “Kaul girl”. At the time, his remarks cost him little influence or power within the BJP party, and Vajpayee’s private life remained unscathed.
Nandita went on to become a doctor and relocated to New York. Namita, however, along with her husband, Ranjan Bhattacharya, continued to live with him even after Mrs. Kaul passed away. While Ranjan held no official title, he held a prominent role in politics, most notably in 1996, during Vajpayee’s election campaign.
Despite any dedication and service to his country, it is clear that the BJP veteran's adopted family was the real centre of his world.