‘Friends for 65 yrs, will miss him’
Lucknow, August 16
“Thunn gayi, maut se thunn gayi, jhoojhney ka mera koi irada na tha, mod par milenge iska wada na tha, raasta rok kar woh khadi ho gayi, yun laga jaise zindagi se badi ho gayi (A face-off with death is a certainty now. I was in no mood to fight since I never knew what lay in store. Death is trying to scare me and threatening to become larger-than-life, but I won’t give in without a fight).”One of his closest associates in Lucknow and former MP and minister Lalji Tandon quoted these lines as he recounted his long association with the five-time Lucknow MP and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. “His own poetry probably best sums up his attitude towards the eventuality of death” he observed. forFrom 1991 to 2009, Vajpayee represented Lucknow in the Lok Sabha for five consecutive terms. And with every electoral victory his bond with the city grew stronger. His association with the state capital, its culture and its history remained unchanged even after he became PM. He would often say while Madhya Pradesh was his ‘janmabhoomi’, Uttar Pradesh, particularly Lucknow, was his ‘karmbhoomi’.Born in Gwalior, his family originally belonged to Bateshwar village in Agra located on the banks of the Yamuna. Vajpayee first entered Parliament from UP’s Balrampur constituency in 1957 and from Lucknow during his last five terms in Parliament. Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma broke down as he recalled his association with the former PM.A former professor of Economics at Lucknow University and two-time Mayor of Lucknow, Sharma said: “One day in 2006, just two days before the filing of nominations was to close, I get a call from Atalji, saying I must get ready to contest for the post of Lucknow Mayor. When I refused, he said it was an order. I accepted on the condition that he would address a public meeting during campaigning. His health was failing. Despite running high fever, he arrived in the city and addressed a public meeting in my support”.Senior journalists remember Vajpayee as a magnanimous person who never let ideological differences, criticism or his personal security come in the way of granting interviews to them. Then Blitz bureau chief Pradeep Kapoor recalled the first time he interviewed Vajpayee in 1996.