Bhopal: The death of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee brought a pal of gloom across the state. Several state leaders got the opportunity to work with Vajpayee, who was born in Gwalior. Vajpayee contested Lok Sabha elections from Gwalior and Vidisha seats. It was when Vajpayee vacated the Lok Sabha seat during by-polls, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan got the opportunity to become MP for the first time.
Vajpayee used to frequently come to Bhopal. His elder brother was living in the city. Most of the state BJP leaders used to personally know Vajpayee. Madhya Pradesh is known as citadel of Jan Sangh because of Rajmata Vijayaraje Scindia and Kushabhau Thakre. Vajpayee used to visit the state frequently.
Free Press had a discussion with state’s senior BJP leaders who shared their experiences with Vajpayee.
Kailash Joshi, former Chief Minister
Former Chief Minister Kailash Joshi worked with Atal Behari Vajpayee for 60 years. According to Joshi, he was once going in a party function in Nimar region with Vajpayee. Vajpayee on the way asked him about a tree. Joshi told him that it was ‘Mahua’ tree. Vajpayee asked Joshi to pluck a leaf of the tree and then he tasted it. Joshi said Vajpayee laughed loudly when he told him that the tree was used to make liquor.
Reminiscing another incident, Joshi said Vajpayee in 2004 had called him and asked him to resign from Rajya Sabha and get ready to contest Lok Sabha elections. Joshi said he had met Vajpayee last time when he had invited him for the marriage function of his grandson.
Babulal Gaur, former Chief Minister
According to former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, he had worked with Vajpayee for a long time. Gaur said he had taken Vajpayee to the Upper Lake on a cycle for swimming, when the later had come to Bhopal with Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in 1951. Gaur said Vajpayee, who wanted to wash his clothes, asked for a soap. He refused to wash clothes with the soap, which was manufactured by a foreign company named Sunlight. Vajpayee asked Gaur to bring a country-made soap and he washed his clothes only when he got it.
Gaur said he had once asked Vajpayee about calling Indira Gandhi, Durga. Vajpayee replied that Guru Golvalkar too used to call Indira Gandhi as Durga. Gaur said during his tenure as Chief Minister, it was decided to celebrate birthday of Vajpayee in Gwalior. The programme was later cancelled when former Prime Minister Narsimharao passed away. Gaur said Vajpayee had told him that Narsinmharao had told him about the nuclear test.
Sartaj Singh, former Union minister
Sartaj Singh, who was Union minister for health during Vajpayee government that lasted for 13-days, said he had met Vajpayee in 1998 for getting ticket. Arjun Singh had decided to contest elections from Hoshangabad. It was also decided by the BJP to field a powerful leader from Hoshangabad.
Singh said he had met Kushabhau Thakre, when he came to know that he would not be given ticket. Thakre suggested him to meet Lalkrishna Advani. Advani sent him to Vajpayee. Singh said he had a discussion with Vajapyee on this matter and Vajpayee after 10-minutes of pondering, asked him to go and prepare to contest elections.
Kailash Sarang, former Rajya Sabha MP
Former Rajya Sabha MP Kailash Sarang, being in-charge of BJP office for a long time, was closely associated with Vajapyee. According to Sarang, Vajpayee, being a staunch ‘Pracharak’ used to stay away from family. Once, his sister-in-law asked me to bring Vajpayee to her daughter’s marriage. Sarang said Vajpayee was about to come to Bhopal in a programme of party organisation.
He mustered courage to ask Vajpayee to go to his brother’s place. Vajpayee initially refused but he agreed after a lot of requests. His brother used to live in Shahjahanabad. Sarang said he could not forget that instance when he saw Vajpayee and his sister-in-law literally crying for a long time on seeing each other.