AGRA: No stranger to the city, Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Agra connect goes back to his early age, when his family moved to Bateshwar, a village in the district on the banks of the river Yamuna. He studied up to class V in the town of temples.

Perhaps, that is why Vajpayee had a personal connection with a majority of the local party leaders. During his political career, he paid several visits to Agra to attend both public and private functions.

Old timers in the party recall one such trip he made to the city on April 9, 1988. As member of the party’s national executive, he was in the city to attend BJP’s national convention. Overwhelmed by love and support of the city residents, who showered him with flowers as he passed the market place, Vajpayee, while addressing the convention, had said, “Zara bachkay rehna bhaiyya, yeh Agra hai. Yahan kay log hai. Yeh toh phoolon say ghayal kar detay hain (Stay safe brothers, this is Agra. People here injure you with flowers).

On the occasion,people gathered along roadsides and stood on rooftops to catch a glimpse of their leader. As Vajpayee passed through market places in an open vehicle, he was rained with rose petals and sunflowers. People stopped him from point to point to garland him.

Such was the response that Vajpayee had to request people to “take it easy”, said BJP state vice-president Purushottam Khandelwal. “Agraites had poured out their hearts to welcome Atal ji. He was overwhelmed by their support. The open vehicle in which he was travelling, was completely filled with flowers and petals,” he added.

Senior BJP leader Sunil Kumar Vikal, who is the son of first party MLA from Agra Satya Prakash Vikal, said, “Atal ji’s road show ended in a mega public meeting at Bijli Ghar. After the three-day convention in 1988, a BJP wave swept Agra. After this, party emerged as a major political force in the municipal corporation, legislative assembly and the from Agra.”

Another senior party leader said such was Vajpayee’s charisma that people would wait for hours to listen to him. He said on February 1991, Vajpayee was scheduled to address a public meeting at in evening. He, however, got delayed in Kanpur, and was late for the meeting by several hours. The delay did not diminish the enthusiasm among his supporters. Those were the days when mobile phones were not common. When someone finally got through to him, Vajpayee said, “I have promised to come, I will definitely fulfill it.” He finally came at 11:30 pm and a large crowd was still waiting for him.

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