Mumbai: When Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke of the ‘lotus (BJP’s poll symbol) blooming at a public rally here in 1980, Ram Naik, now Uttar Pradesh Governor, was president of the party’s Mumbai unit. “In the rally, Atalji had said: Andhera Chhatega, Sooraj Niklega, Kamal Khilega (The darkness will go, the sun will come out and the lotus will bloom),” Naik said.
“As soon as he made the statement, there were slogans of ‘Agli Baari, Atal Bihari’ from the audience,” Naik told PTI. Naik said the organisers of the BJP mahaadhiveshan (grand convention) had expected much lesser number of attendees. “Over 58000 delegates were present, much more than we anticipated,” the former Union minister said.
“After the 1985 elections, BJP had just two members in Lok Sabha, one from Gujarat and another one from Andhra Pradesh. People then ridiculed Atalji as to how his party was going to come to power with such a tally,” Naik said. “But he proved his detractors wrong by making BJP the ruling party and becoming the prime minister,” he said.
At the 1980 meeting in Mumbai, the party leadership had drawn the likes of Mohamed Ali Currim Chagla, eminent jurist, to the inaugural session. Chagla had then declared that the BJP was the only party that could replace Indira Gandhi and asserted it to be the only viable alternative to the Congress at the Centre. “Chagla said that from where he was sitting, which was to Vajpayee’s left, he saw a mini-India. He said that to his right was the next prime minister of India,” Naik recalled.
“It was the evening of December 30, 1980 and the public at the Shivaji Park ground in Mumbai had assembled to witness the birth of BJP,” he said. Naik also lauded Vajpayee’s “acumen in successfully leading the ruling coalition of 23-24 parties”. There will never be a leader of his stature, Naik added. “On a personal note, Atalji came to meet me twice when I was undergoing treatment for cancer. He later told me that I had returned from the jaws of death,” Naik said.