Lucknow: Political leaders cutting across party lines paid glowing tributes to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Thursday and recalled their interactions with him at a prayer meeting in the state capital.
While Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh recalled his association with the veteran leader, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath credited Vajpayee for the ambitious golden quadrilateral road project and the Prime Minister's rural road projects.
Singh said it was the farsightedness of the first Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, who had predicted that Vajpayee would become the PM.
"Not only did Atal ji lead the nation with strong will in India's victory in the Kargil conflict with Pakistan, but he also led a decisive diplomatic offensive against the neighbouring country," Singh said.
Governor Ram Naik called the late Prime Minister a 'Maha Nayak' and recalled how Vajpayee had contested Lok Sabha polls from three constituencies when their was a dearth of contestants for the Jana Sangh, which was in a nascent stage as a political entity.
Former Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav remembered Vajpayee as a leader who commanded respect of all cutting across political ideologies.
"He was one leader who had earned respect from every nook and corner of the political establishment and even on the global stage," he added.
"It is a great loss to the country," said the former Samajwadi Party (SP)chief.
Uttar Pradesh Congress Committee (UPCC) president Raj Babbar, who contested against Vajpayee from Lucknow in the 1996 Lok Sabha elections, also had fond memories to share about the BJP stalwart.
"I met him in the airplane once during the elections…we were seated next to each other and I sought his blessings so that I did not utter any wrong word against him during the campaign. He smilingly told me that he was sure that I would not do so," the actor-turned-politician reminisced.
Shia cleric Kalbe Jawwad called Vajpayee an "ambassador of peace".
Earlier in the day, the 'asthi kalash yatra' (ash carrying procession) began soon after a special IAF plane carrying the urn of the BJP stalwart landed at the Chowdhary Charan Singh International Airport.
Accompanied by the foster family of Vajpayee, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh alighted from the aircraft with the urn which was received on the tarmac by Governor Ram Naik, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and senior party leaders.
The urn was later carried on top of a flower-decked vehicle to the BJP party office at the Vidhan Sabha Marg where party workers and common people paid their last respects to the leader, who represented the constituency five times in the Lok Sabha.
The procession later made way to the Jhulelal Park on the banks of the Gomti where a prayer meeting took place after which his ashes were immersed in the river.