The demise of 93-year-old former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is considered one of the stalwarts of India politics, at 5:05 pm on Thursday has sent a wave of grief across the country. While politicians from across the spectrum have issued touching tributes to the man who in 2004 became the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full term, few are as meaningful as the man who for decades was Vajpayee's best friend and closest associate, and, in fact, Deputy Prime Minister -- veteran BJP leader LK Advani.
Advani and Atal Bihari Vajpayee shared a great camaraderie and were widely considered to be two sides of the same coin. The duo rose to prominence hand-in-hand and remained each other’s political partner and colleagues ever since. Yet, in his heartfelt letter, LK Advani calls Vajpayee his senior and admits to being lost for words upon hearing the news of the former PM's passing.
"I am at a loss of words to express my deep grief and sadness today as we all mourn the passing away of one of India’s tallest statesmen, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. To me, Atalji was more than a senior colleague- in fact he was my closest friend for over 65 years."
Vajpayee and Advani are credited with laying the foundations of the current BJP with the inception of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh -- its forerunner. Elaborating on the political and democratic circumstances of those seminal days, Advani referred the late Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as a pioneer.
"I cherish the memories of my long association with him, right from our days as Pracharaks of the RSS, to the inception of Bharatiya Jana Singh, the struggle of the dark months during the Emergency leading to the formation of Janata Party and later the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980.
Atalji will be remembered as the pioneer of the first ever stable non-Congress coalition government at the Centre and I had the privilege of working as his deputy for six years.
As my senior, he always encouraged and guided me in every possible manner."
LK Advani goes on to shower praise on his friend's leadership qualities, and points out something "remarkable" -- Vajpayee's ability to win over those with whom he had ideological differences.
His captivating leadership qualities, mesmerising oratory, soaring patriotism and above all, his sterling humane qualities like compassion, humility and his remarkable ability to win over adversories despite ideological differences have all had a profound effect on me in all my years in public life.
I will miss Atalji immensely…