Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s young friend who was given special handwritten pass to Raisina Road residence

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee grew increasingly attached to little Kanha, his neighbour during his stay in a government accommodation at La Palace in Hazratganj in Lucknow.

india Updated: Aug 18, 2018 17:52 IST
Oliver Fredrick
Oliver Fredrick
Hindustan Times, Lucknow
Atal Bihari Vajpayee,Vajpayee death,Vajpayee funeral
There are scores of photos of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Kanha, playing, celebrating birthdays, and generally having a good time.

While everyone knew that Atal Bihari Vajpayee shared a special connect with Lucknow, very few were aware of the “young dear friend” in the city who was given a special handwritten, hassle-free entry pass to his 6, Raisina Road residence in New Delhi by the former Prime Minister himself.

The special pass given to Aradhya Krishna, alias ‘Kanha’, who was then was just a six-year-old, read: Priy Kanha ko humne milne ke liye bulaya hai, koi inhe roke nahi, aane diya jaye. Ye hamare mehmaan hain (Dear Kanha has been called by me. Please allow him entry as he is my guest).

Issued on April 27, 1996, a yellowish, handwritten-pass bearing Vajpayee’s signature and the address of his residence is not the only testimony to the warmth of the relationship between Kanha and the man he calls his Baba.

There are scores of photos of Vajpayee with the child, playing, celebrating birthdays, and generally having a good time.

So who is Kanha?

He is the son of Alok Awasthi, the neighbour of the former PM during his stay in a government accommodation, La Palace in Hazratganj, Lucknow. “Atalji was deeply attached to Kanha ,” says Awasthi. “Atal ji used to stay in 301 and 302 — the two flats that were combined for his accommodation. He had a peculiar habit of boarding lift from the first floor and not from the ground floor. Many times, Kanha would see him and call out ‘Baba’ or say ‘Baba aa gaye’ (Baba has come home) and in return Atal ji would hug him and offer him some sweets and this became a routine. This was in 1994, even before Atalji became PM. Kanha was just four.”

What surprised the Awasthi family the most was that the bond that former PM had with Kanha continued even after he became PM. “I still remember Kanha calling him from a PCO (public call office) and he used to take the call himself. Indeed he was a man who used to value a relationship,” Awasthi added.

29 March 1999 was a memorable day not only for Kanha but also for the entire Awasthi family when the PM was in Lucknow for some work. “Baba was in Lucknow when he came to know about my birthday. I and my family was shocked to see PM and state chief minister Kalyan Singh at our place to attend a cake cutting ceremony. It was the best possible gift Baba gave me on my birthday,” said an inconsolable Kanha.

The duo not only had cake but also dined with the family. Kanha said he still has a big teddy bear that the PM gifted him. “Since then he made a point to be in Lucknow or call me to the PM’s house to celebrate my birthday. I remember doing this till 2004,” he said.

He said Vajpayee’s demise was an irreparable loss to him. “He was my Baba. I have lost him,” he added. He said, Vajpayee may be a politician for some or a poet for others, “but for me he was my grandfather, which whom I shared some of the most cherished moments of my life.”

Incidentally, Kanha is also one of the select few who got to visit an ailing Vajpayee in New Delhi. “I visited him in June this year when his health deteriorated and he was hospitalised,” he said.

Kanha, now 28, is an activist of the Bharatiya Janata Party. He said his only aim is to carry forward Vajpayee’s ideology and to follow in his footsteps.

First Published: Aug 18, 2018 09:50 IST