In Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s death, India bids adieu not just to a former Prime Minister but a titanic leader who had the ability to take different ideologies and all sections of society together. Former Prime Minister and the BJP’s tallest leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away at AIIMS last evening. Moist eyes, heartfelt messages and a sombre tone are omnipresent among commoners as well as VVIPs. The wisdom of the BJP stalwart continues to draw reverential fear from the educated class as much as his patriotism and an uninhibited sense of nationalism still inspire the aam aadmi.
It’s the homage and last respects that seem to have tied a PhD student to a PWD worker at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal. Such is the aura of Vajpayee – a statesman of Indian politics like none other. With the social fabric getting blurred as people converge to pay one last salute to the man on his last journey, to say that Atalji has left an indelible mark on the hearts of every Indian is an understatement.
“Atalji worked for the nation. It didn’t matter for him whether someone was a Hindu or a Muslim, all communities had faith in him,” said Sudhir Kumar Ojha, a 49-year-old advocate from Muzaffarpur in Bihar. “In the afternoon, when his condition worsened, I left my research work and went to AIIMS. I wished for his recovery but all of us knew his condition… I am prepared to wait here all night if that’s what it takes to get one look at his face,” a PhD student at Jamia Millia Islamia Dinanath Gupta said.
“I had read about Atal Bihari Vajpayee in school. We read about him in school and college. He was a good man,” said 19-year-old Bipin Kumar, one of the PWD workers at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal. “All of us were taken by the contractor to this place at 9 am. We were asked to clean the grass. We came to know about Vajpayee’s death through some security officials around 3-3.30 pm. He was a good politician, everyone knows of him. He was a good prime minister,” said Bipin’s co-worker Harinder Kumar, a high-school dropout.
A 52-year-old man, Yogesh Kumar arrived here with a group of people from Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. The group covered a distance of around 500-km overnight in the hope to have one last glimpse of their beloved leader, Kumar said. These anecdotes only help us to gauge the magnitude of the respect that ex-PM Vajpayee still commands.
After witnessing this, we can only quote eminent poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s lines “Life is real! Life is earnest! And the grave is not its goal; Dust thou art, to dust returnest.”
Heavy security arrangements, including deployment of police, traffic and paramilitary personnel, have been put in place around the 6-A Krishna Menon Marg bungalow in Lutyens Delhi where hundreds of people queued up outside the residence of former PM Vajpayee this morning to pay their last respects to the departed leader. The final journey to the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal from the BJP’s party office at around 1 pm.