Thousands travel miles for ‘dear Atalji’
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Thousands travel miles for ‘dear Atalji’

Though Vajpayee’s mortal remains reached the BJP office around 11 am, his supporters and party workers had begun trickling in from 9 in the morning.

delhi Updated: Aug 18, 2018 03:58 IST
Sweta Goswami
Sweta Goswami
Hindustan Times, Sweta Goswami
Atal Bihari Vajpayee,Vajpayee funeral
People attend the cremation of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee being performed with full state honour, at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal in New Delhi on Friday, Aug 17, 2018.(PTI Photo)

Five minutes of brisk walking in the sultry weather on Deen Dayal Upadhyay (DDU) Marg was enough to make seven-year-old Ritika sit down on the road in protest.

She refused to walk any further and asked her father to take her in a car to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarter, where former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s mortal remains were kept on Friday.

“Get up quick! You will remember this day for the rest of your life,” Shankar Singh told his daughter.

They were not the only ones walking in Central Delhi. Thousands braved the Friday afternoon sun to participate in the funeral procession.

Bhola Khan, 70, had travelled over 40km from Narela. “Vajpayeeji was moderate and not a hardliner. Hindus, Muslims and people of all faiths were fond of him. He took everyone along. For him Opposition was only a political rival and not an enemy,” he said.

Though Vajpayee’s mortal remains reached the BJP office around 11 am, his supporters and party workers had begun trickling in from 9 in the morning. They had come from as far as Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan – some even from Tamil Nadu.

Out of the thousands who came, only a handful managed to go inside the main hall of the BJP headquarters where Vajpayee’s body was kept.

Entering the building premise wasn’t easy for the thousands who had gathered, with police and security agencies keeping a strict watch on the crowd.

Four-time MP from Aligarh, Sheela Gautam,86, came on a wheelchair but could not get inside the building. “There was a huge crowd and heavy security. I have lost a brother. I used to tie rakhi to Vajpayeeji,” she said.

Nizamuddin Malik, 61, a Jind resident too was unable to get in.

“Vajpayeeji had once come for a sammelan at Jind. The food served was very spicy. He almost had tears in his eyes. I saw it as we all sat on the same table. So, we arranged gud (jaggery) from a nearby house,” he said.

A number of people who were associated with the former PM at some point of their lives
had come to pay their last respects.

Satyadev Singh, an officer with Gujarat fisheries had one such link. “We used to deliver fish to Vajpayeeji’s house. I remember sending pomfrets, surmais and singara fishes to his home. Sometimes, when guests were to come, they asked us to take extra care of the quality,” said 58-year-old Singh.

Singh said he had the chance to meet Vajpayee only once. “He was severely ill. I had gone with a group of people to enquire about his health. We did not talk though,” he said.

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 03:58 IST