Vajpayee had a special love, connection in Mumbai

Vajpayee and BJP had a special significance vis-à-vis Mumbai

Students place candles around a painting featuring India's former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to pay him homage in Mumbai, India, August 16, 2018. (REUTERS)

Late Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had a special love and connection with Mumbai. 

Vajpayee always loved to visit Mumbai and had an appreciation for Maharashtrian culture, people, cuisine and heritage. In fact, in his speeches and public address, he had said these several times.

Politically too, Vajpayee and BJP had a special significance vis-à-vis Mumbai.

In fact, on April 6, 1980, the first convention of the BJP was held at the Bandra Reclamation in Mumbai – in which Vajpayee and former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani were present.

In a rally, then, Vajpayee had said: “andhera chathega, suraj niklega, kamal khilega” (Darkness will go, the sun will rise and Lotus will bloom). This statement signalled the emergence of the BJP as a strong political force – and the rest is history.

During the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, the BJP came close to the Shiv Sena – and the saffron alliance was slowly and slowly cemented. Vajpayee and Advani shared a special relationship with late Shiv Sena founder Balasaheb Thackeray. In fact, this was the first ideological and political alliance for the BJP. Late BJP leader Pramod Mahajan was one of the architects of the saffron alliance.

From 1995-99, the Shiv Sena-BJP saffron alliance government was in power in Maharashtra – first headed by Dr Manohar Joshi – who later also became the Lok Sabha Speaker – and then Narayan Rane. The Shiv Sena also continued to support the BJP-led governments at the Centre – all the three that were headed by Vajpayee and now by Narendra Modi.

Another important milestone in the journey was 1995 when at the national council meeting held at the Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Vajpayee was named as the Prime Ministerial candidate. “Vajpayee ji would be the Prime Minister when BJP comes to power,” Advani had declared.

Besides, December 2005 national executive meeting held at the Bandra Reclamation in Mumbai too was very important. Coinciding with the national executive, a rally too was held at the Shivaji Park, where Vajpayee virtually announced his retirement and likened Advani and Mahajan as “Ram and Laxman.”

"Party is Ram and it is the duty of everyone to work in the service of Ram. I am the Hanuman,” former BJP President M Venkaiah Naidu, the current Vice President had then said after Vajpayee's statement created a flutter.

When he was Prime Minister, he preferred to have his knee-replacement surgeries done at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai in 2000-01. Dr Chittaranjan Ranawat, a US-based orthopaedic surgeon performed the surgery on the then Prime Minister.

Vajpayee had several friends in Mumbai including late Ved Prakash Goyal, the long-time Treasurer of BJP and former Shipping Minister, who was the father of Railway Minister Piyush Goyal.

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