Condolences poured in from all quarters after former prime minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee died on Thursday. “India grieves the demise of our beloved Atalji,” said Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “His passing away marks the end of an era. He lived for the nation and served it assiduously for decades. My thoughts are with his family, BJP Karyakartas and millions of admirers in this hour of sadness.”
Modi said Vajpayee’s death was a personal and irreplaceable loss for him. “I have countless fond memories with him. He was an inspiration to karyakartas like me. I will particularly remember his sharp intellect and outstanding wit,” said the prime minister.
President Ram Nath Kovind hailed Vajpayee as a true Indian statesman. “His leadership, foresight, maturity and eloquence put him in a league of his own,” said Kovind. “Atalji, the Gentle Giant, will be missed by one and all.”
Congress President Rahul Gandhi offered his condolences as well. “Today India lost a great son,” he tweeted. “Former PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji, was loved and respected by millions. My condolences to his family & all his admirers. We will miss him.”
The United States said Vajpayee will be remembered for his immense contribution in bolstering Indo-American relations. “United States grieves with India on the loss of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” the US Embassy in India said in a statement. “During his tenure, Atal Bihari Vajpayee advocated for robust partnership with the US, referring to us as natural allies. The US Mission in India extends our deepest condolences to the family of former Prime Minister Vajpayee and the citizens of India.”
In a statement, the Pakistan government also extended its condolences. “Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a renowned statesman who contributed to bringing a change in India-Pakistan relations and remained a key supporter of SAARC and regional cooperation for development,” the statement said, according to ABP News .
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said that Vajpayee would be remembered for contributing towards good governance and highlighting matters affecting common people as well as regional peace and prosperity, reported ANI. “He was our friend and highly respected in Bangladesh,” she said. “As a token of recognition for his invaluable contribution to our Liberation War in 1971, the Bangladesh government conferred on him the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour.”
Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu said that Vajpayee never hesitated to speak from his heart. “He was a true India,” ANI reported Naidu as saying. “He was the tallest leader in India post Independence.”
Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah said that Vajpayee, as the party’s founding president, nursed a banyan tree in the country’s politics with his tenacity and tireless work. “On the one hand, Atalji as the head of a party in opposition played the role of an ideal opposition, while on the other hand he provided the country a decisive leadership as prime minister,” said Shah.
Senior BJP leader Vajpayee’s close colleague LK Advani described him as his “closest friend for over 65 years”, reported The Times of India. “To me, Atalji was more than a senior colleague. In fact, he was my closest friend for over 65 years,” said Advani. “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.”
Former Congress President Sonia Gandhi said Vajpayee was a towering figure who stood for democratic values and demonstrated this commitment in all his acts, whether as a parliamentarian, a cabinet minister, or as prime minister, reported ANI. “His warm personality and his gift of friendship won him admirers and friends across the political spectrum and from every walk of life,” she said. “His death leaves behind a huge void.”
Former prime minister and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh called Vajpayee “an excellent orator, an impressive poet, an exceptional public servant, an outstanding Parliamentarian and a great prime minister”. Former President Pranab Mukherjee described Vajpayee as a “colossus”, adding that “the country will be poorer in the loss”.
Odisha Chief Minister M Naveen Patnaik said India has lost one of its tallest leaders. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Vajpayee’s death was a very big loss to the nation. “I will always cherish the many fond memories. Condolences to his family and his many admirers,” she added.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis tweeted that Vajpayee was an inspiration to millions, including him, and encouraged and taught them how to serve the last man with the weapon of democracy. Former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav said that current leaders had a lot to learn from Vajpayee, who was a very simple man in spite of being such a senior leader. “There was not even a shred of arrogance in him,” said Yadav.
Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti said Vajpayee’s demise was a “big loss” for the people of the state. “He was the first Prime Minister to understand the agony of our people,” ANI quoted her as saying. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah tweeted that he felt a personal sense of loss at Vajpayee’s death.
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said that Vajpayee had the “unique ability to bring everyone together”. “Atalji was like a star in the sky of politics, which shone brighter than everyone else,” she told ANI. “Even if you ask the opposition they hold a sense of respect for him.”
Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray said that Vajpayee was a “strong binding force of the National Democratic Alliance”, reported IANS. Thackeray said that the former prime minister always went hand-in-hand with big or small coalition parties to carry the alliance forward, and his ability to unite everybody strengthened the NDA. “Pride, arrogance or rigidity of power was miles away from him; he was upright and honest, gentle and mild-mannered, and his perpetually smiling face an inspiration for all,” he said. “I met him several times and he always blessed me like a father. Nobody can take his place.”
Industrialist Ratan Tata described Vajpayee as a “great leader with a great sense of compassion and humour”. “He will be remembered fondly by a vast number of us,” said Tata.
The former prime minister was admitted to the facility in June with a urinary tract infection, a lower respiratory tract infection and kidney-related ailments but the hospital had said days later that he was recovering.
The BJP veteran was a diabetic and had one functional kidney. He had suffered a stroke in 2009, which reportedly weakened his cognitive abilities, following which he developed dementia.
Vajpayee was the prime minister between 1998 and 2004 when the National Democratic Alliance government was in power. The government conferred the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, on him in 2015.