Attending a prayer meeting held for Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the former prime minister 'was a life for the people of India'.
"Atalji's life was dedicated to the people of India. In his youth itself, he decided that he wanted to serve his fellow Indians. He entered politics when only one party held sway over the political discourse," Modi said. "When Atal ji formed the government for 13 days, no party was willing to support him. The government fell. He did not lose hope and remained committed to serving the people. Atal ji showed the way when it came to coalition politics."
Praising Vajpayee for his long role in the Opposition benches, he said, "Atalji spent several years in Opposition. Not once did he compromise on his ideology. He distinguished himself as a parliamentarian and was proud of our parliamentary traditions."
On his handling of the complex Kashmir issue, Modi said, "When some were cornering India on the Kashmir issue, it was Vajpayeeji who changed the narrative."
The prime minister also admired Vajpayee's zeal to make India a nuclear state.
"Atalji's efforts ensured India became a nuclear power. He attributed the tests of 11 May 1998 to the brilliance of our scientists. Two days later, India tested again and showed what a strong political leadership can do. He never buckled under pressure. He was Atal, after all," Modi said.
Talking about how loved and respected Vajpayee was, Modi even referred to the ongoing Asian Games.
"On Sunday, one of our athletes, Bajrang Punia won the gold (our 1st in 2018 Asian Games). He dedicated the medal to Atal ji. I do not think Bajrang would have had the opportunity to closely interact with Atal ji, but such is Atal ji's respect that every Indian is inspired by him," he said.
The prime minister also reminded the audience how Vajpayee as prime minister "created three states, which are prospering".
"The process of creating these states was peaceful and without bitterness," Modi said. He was referring to the creation of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Uttarakhand.
The prime minister also credited Vajpayee for making "terrorism...an important issue at the world stage".
Union Minister Rajnath Singh, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, senior BJP leader LK Advani and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti attended the prayer meeting for Vajpayee in Delhi. The prayer meeting was also attended by yoga guru Ramdev and former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Farooq Abdullah among others.
Vajpayee, one of India's most charismatic leaders who led the nation through several crises and held together with a tenuous coalition with his inclusive politics, died last Thursday at the age of 93.
A bachelor, he is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya.
His death was announced by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital where he was admitted on 11 June with a variety of ailments.
"It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at 05:05 PM," the AIIMS had said in a statement on Thursday.
It said his condition was stable for the last nine weeks, but "unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems."
"Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today. We join the Nation in deeply mourning this great loss," said the statement by Dr (Prof) Aarti Vij.
Vajpayee, who joined the Rashtriya Swamsevak Sangha (RSS) in 1947 rose through ranks to become a stalwart of the BJP and was the first non-Congress prime minister to complete a full term in office.
Seen as a moderate face of BJP, Vajpayee's first became prime minister in 1996, leading a shaky coalition whose members were suspicious of the BJP's right-wing politics. It lasted for 13 days and collapsed after losing a vote of no-confidence.
His second stint as prime minister was in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance again came to power but that lasted for just 13 months.
Finally, the NDA with Vajpayee as the prime minister returned to power in 1999 and was voted out in 2004.
A 10-time MP of the Lok Sabha, Vajpayee had announced his retirement from politics in 2005. He was also a member of the Rajya Sabha twice.
The former prime minister was admitted to the hospital on 11 June with a kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection, low urine output and chest congestion.
Vajpayee, a diabetic, had only one functional kidney. He suffered a stroke in 2009 that weakened his cognitive abilities. Subsequently, he developed dementia.
With inputs from PTI
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Updated Date: Aug 20, 2018 19:19:12 IST