When Atal Bihari Vajpayee was found at Miramar beach in a T-shirt

PANAJI: Former prime minister and founding member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Atal Bihari visited Goa on several occassions, especially during the early years of the party and even before, when the party was still Jan Sangh. One such occassion is etched in the memory of senior Goa BJP leader Rajendra .

Arlekar during the visit, in the early to mid-1970s, would give Vajpayee a ride to the airport on his .

“He was an office-bearer of Jan Sangh. It was in the 1970s, before the Emergency was imposed, I remember. He had come to Goa as part of a parliamentary committee. He came to our house in , after his meetings. Our house was no better than a shanty in those days. He stayed for lunch and I later dropped him off to the airport in Dabolim on my scooter. I think it was a Priya scooter, I cannot even recollect now,” Arlekar told TOI on Thursday.

“There were few cars in Goa back then and Arlekar asked him, ‘Scooter chalega?’ and Atalji said ‘Haan, bhaitoonga.’ He sat on the scooter holding his own suitcase,” former Goa chief minister Laxmikant said.

He said that Vajpayee always preferred to stay at the house of the ordinary karyakarta of the party on his Goa visits in the seventies and eighties.

“He lived a very humble life. He stayed with Madhav Dhond in Goa. He never stayed at a hotel,” said Parsekar.

Goa BJP president and Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Tendulkar recalled how in the late 1980s Vajpayee defied the authorities to hold a public meeting in Margao.

“At a meeting in Margao, the government disallowed a public meeting from taking place in the Margao municipal square. Vajpayee said, ‘I want to see who stops me.’ And he had the meeting without the permission. He marched to the municipal square with several party workers,” said Tendulkar.

Arlekar said that at the first national executive of the BJP that took place in Goa, party workers were amused when they could not recognise Vajpayee who was found sitting by the Miramar beach front dressed in a T-shirt and trousers.

“At around 7.30 or 8pm, after the meeting was over, everyone wanted to meet Atalji but could not locate him. Then we realised it was him sitting there in a chair wearing a T-shirt. We were so used to seeing him in a dhoti and kurta that we did not recognise him dressed so casually,” Arlekar said.

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