All parties unite to pay tribute to Atal Behari Vajpayee

He never buckled under pressure. He was Atal after all,†he said, adding the former PM never compromised on his ideology.

New Delhi: A person who never buckled under pressure, an exemplary swayamsewak (volunteer), a human being who ruled everyone’s heart like an emperor and a leader who brought everyone together, cutting across party and ideological divides even in death, the tributes flew thick and fast for BJP patriarch and former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who passed away last week after a prolonged illness.

An all-party prayer meeting for Vajpayee saw politicians, cutting across political and ideological lines, paying tribute to the BJP patriarch for his generosity, his simple nature, his oratory skills, an ajatshatru (someone who had no enemy) even while in politics and someone for whom the country’s interests were the only priority.

The event saw Prime Minister Narendra Modi, RSS supremo Mohan Bhagwat, senior Congress leader Ghulam

Nabi Azad, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, PDP’s Mehbooba Mufti, Trinamul Congress’ Derek O’Brien and many others fondly remembering the late PM and heaping praise on him.

Describing Vajpayee as a person who neither buckled under pressure nor lost hope despite the odds, Mr Modi said the late leader changed the narrative when some countries were cornering India over the Kashmir issue, and because of him terrorism became an important issue on the world stage. He said no party was willing to back Vajpayee when he formed the government for 13 days, referring to the shortlived NDA government in 1996 which fell quickly.

“He did not lose hope and remained committed to serving the people,” the Prime Minister said, adding that he showed the way when it came to coalition politics. Referring to the May 1998 nuclear tests, Mr Modi said Vajpayee’s efforts ensured that India became a nuclear power. He attributed the tests to the brilliance of India’s scientists. Two days later, India tested again and showed what a strong political leadership can do, the PM said.

“He never buckled under pressure. He was Atal after all,” he said, adding the former PM never compromised on his ideology.

Calling the late BJP leader a “true swayamsewak”, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said Vajpayee was a glowing example to all swayamsevaks on how to live a simple life with humility even when in such a high post. He said the late PM’s death was an irreparable loss for everyone. Mr Bhagwat said Vajpayee was among the few people who had nutured the organisation even during unfavourable conditions and it was due to his dedication that it had come up like a full-grown tree.

BJP president Amit Shah said Vajpayee had a multi-faceted personality, and besides being an “ajatshatru”, he was a great poet, journalist and politician who never let the party deviate from the path of its ideology.

Remembring how Vajpayee was among the few non-Congress people whose speeches he would go to listen to in Jammu as a younster, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said Vajpayee was such an eloquent speaker that even his criticism sounded pleasant. Recalling his time as parliamentary affairs minister in the P.V. Narasimha Rao government, Mr Azad said he had to meet Vajpayee, then a key Opposition leader, several times a day during Parliament sessions, and they used to have tea and meals together. He said the late BJP stalwart worked to take everyone along.

“The distance we see today was not there then,” he said, apparently referring to the frosty relations between the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Opposition. He said Vajpayee brought together leaders cutting across ideological divides even in his death, which he said was something rare. Congress president Rahul Gandhi was expected to attend the event but could not as it was the birth anniversary of his father and former PM Rajiv Gandhi, and had sent Mr Azad and party colleague Anand Sharma as his representatives.

Calling the late PM a “great human”, former Jammu and Kashmir CM Mehbooba Mufti said that for the people of J&K Vajpayee “was not less than a messiah” and the first national leader who trusted the people of the state and who in turn was trusted by the people of J&K.

Akali Dal leader and Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said “Atalji ruled everyone’s heart like an emperor. He might have been away from politics for long but he ruled people’s hearts.”

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