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Vajpayee at home in Pune; didn’t want to be called ‘guest’ in city

April 2005, Vajpayee’s last visit to the city, left a mark on many... here’s why

pune Updated: Aug 17, 2018 14:35 IST
Yogesh Joshi
Yogesh Joshi
Hindustan Times, Pune
Vajpayee; AB Vajpayee,Atal Bihari Vajpayee,Atal
Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away in New Delhi this evening.(REUTERS)

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a fondness for Pune and considered the city home.

In 1988, during a function in Pune on Veer Savarkar, he said he had visited Pune several times and did not consider himself a “guest”.

“I don’t like to be called a guest in this city. I have been here several times. So if I was a guest in the past, that is over now,” said Vajpayee, who had then completed his six-year term as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president.

Prior to becoming prime minister, Vajpayee often stayed at Hotel Shreyas on Apte road where he used enjoy the morning brunch. “During the 1980s and 1990s, Vajpayee stayed in the hotel around 15-16 times,” said Shreyas owner Dattatray Chitale, whose father, an RSS worker, was close associate of Vajpayee.

The three-term Prime Minister had a good rapport with many city personalities, such as the prominent Marathi humourist Pu La Deshpande, Kirana gharana maestro Pt Bhimsen Joshi and late BJP leader Rambhau Mhalgi and his family.

Whenever Pu La visited Delhi, Vajpayee often took that opportunity to meet him. “Now that Deshpande does not come too often to Delhi, I thought I should come to Pune to meet him. Now that Deshpande’s stay in the capital is over there is a vacuum in Delhi’s literary circle,” Vajpayee said at an event also attended by Pu La.

One quality that many senior RSS leaders from the city recalled about Vajpayee was the grace with which he faced his critics. In Vajpayee’s own words, he feared “getting a bad name” when then RSS chief KS Sudarshan attacked him and his family. It was early summer 2005 when Vajpayee arrived in Pune to attend the golden jubilee celebrations of ‘Geet ramayan’, a composition on the life of Lord Ram, sung by Sudhir Phadke and penned by the great Marathi writer, Ga Di Madgulkar.

In his inimitable style, Vajpayee responded to Sudarshan’s criticism in a speech around Geet Ramayan. “We are living in such times that it is difficult to avoid being maligned. Had Lord Ram taken birth in these times, he too would not have escaped being maligned. I do not fear death, I fear getting a bad name,” said Vajpayee while quoting a couplet from Ramayana.

The April 2005 visit was Vajpayee’s last one to the city and left a mark on many.

First Published: Aug 16, 2018 18:15 IST