Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi mourned the death of veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leaderAtal Bihari Vajpayee on Thursday as a personal and irreplaceable loss as he paid rich tribute to his exemplary leadership and futuristic policies. Vajpayee, the first non-Congress leader to serve a full term in power, died on Thursday at the All India Institute of Medical Science where he had been undergoing treatment for a kidney ailment since June. He was 93.

“India grieves the demise of our beloved Atal Ji. 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. Om Shanti,” Modi said in a series of tweets.

“It was Atal Ji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century. His futuristic policies across various sectors touched the lives of each and every citizen of India,” he said.

The Prime Minister said Vajpayee’s “perseverance and struggles” helped in forming the saffron party “brick by brick.”

“... He travelled across the length and breadth of India to spread the BJP’s message, which led to the BJP becoming a strong force in our national polity and in several states,” he added.

“Atal Ji’s passing away is a personal and irreplaceable loss for me. 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.”

Watch: Remembering Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Poet, politician and statesman Vajpayee, one of the founder members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), served as prime minister for 13 days in 1996, 13 months (1998-99) at the head of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government and then for a full five-year term (1999-2004).

Renowned for his powerful oratory and poetry, he had announced his retirement from electoral politics in 2005 and withdrew further from public life in 2009 after suffering a stroke that weakened his cognitive abilities.

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu

Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday expressed grief over the death of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, hailing him as "Ajaatshatru of politics" and a source of inspiration for his generation.

Naidu called Vajpayee an "orator and great personality with a sensitive heart of a poet". He said Vajpayee was a "fantastic wordsmith" and with his civilised dialogue he enriched Parliament's glory.

Vajpayee, whose politics of moderation in a hardline party propelled the BJP to power for the first time in the 1990s, died on Thursday here following a prolonged illness at the age of 93.

A philosopher and a statesman, Vajpayee never hesitated to speak from his heart when there were larger concerns, Naidu said.

"Overwhelmed with a surge of memories of venerable Atalji. Only these memories will fill the void now left behind by him," Naidu said in a tweet.

The Vice President added: "My association and bonding with Vajpayee has been deeply enriching and transformative. I joined politics because of Shri Vajpayee's speeches that I heard while I was in ABVP. I used to be such a fan of his from my college days.

"He was a real 'Ajaatshatru' who got along with people from all sections. He was an able leader and provided a stable government. He practised politics of principles and infused values into politics.

"During my early days in politics, I remember how we all fondly used to call him, 'Tharuna Hriday Samrat', (a leader with a young heart). He was efficient and affable, bold and convivial."

In his death, the country lost a "multi-faceted 'Ratna', a diamond", he said.

BJP chief Amit Shah

BJP chief Amit Shah on Thursday paid heartfelt tributes to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, saying he nursed the party from its inception to make it a banyan tree and left an indelible mark in Indian politics.

The party would work to fulfil the mission he has left behind, Shah told reporters following Vajpayee’s death at AIIMS hospital in New Delhi after a long spell of illness.

“Atal ji emerged as a popular national leader who believed that power is a means of service and led a spotless political life without compromising on national interest. And that’s why the people across political and social boundaries showered him with love and respect,” Shah said in tweet.

Describing the former prime minister as one of the most-popular Indian leader, Shah said Vajpayee, as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s founding president, nursed a banyan tree in the country’s politics with his tenacity and tireless work.

Shakti Sinha

It was an election meeting and the mid-sized Kutchery ground was quite full. Indira Gandhi; who ran a minority government with the support of the Communist Party of India and Communist Party of India (Marxist); had called for early elections. The leading opposition parties; Congress (0); Jana Sangh; the Swatantra Party and the Samyukta Socialist Party, had formed a Mahagatbandhan (Grand Alliance). It seemed to pose a very formidable challenge to the ruling Congress (R) of Mrs Gandhi.

Just as Vajpayee started to speak, it started drizzling. Naturally; he interpreted it as the blessing of Lord Indra. The crowd loved it; the speech was mesmerising and we all felt elated. Though not for very long — Indira Gandhi swept the elections, including in Ranchi. The Mahagatbandhan was created with the sole motivation of "Indira hatao" (remove Indira). It had developed no coherent vision; no alternative point of view. Indira Gandhi was relatively alone and all she said was; "Garibi hatao" (remove poverty). The people gave her a crushing mandate; 330 MPs out of 536 in the Lok Sabha.

Getting to know Vajpayee at a personal level after I got married in 1980 and often visited 6; Raisina Road to see my wife's aunt and cousins (my wife is related to Vajpayee's foster family); was a very slow process. Baap ji; as he was called; was notoriously shy, and generally kept to himself; when present; he was a man of very few words. It was clear that while he could speak to tens of thousands very intimately, he could be quite retiring in small groups.

I realised this in full measure when I started working for him on 13 May; 1996 when he became the prime minister, the head of a government whose days were numbered even as he was being sworn in. I continued working closely with him when he became, once more; the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

A mesmerising public speaker; Vajpayee could hold audiences in thrall, but not just through eloquence. What impressed me the most was his ability to make a logical argument that was very well structured. This came; I realised; from a very disciplined brain of someone who never found work boring and was always willing to devour more information and analysis.

I still remember the meeting held at 7; Race Course Road after the famous July 4 statements of Bill Clinton and Nawaz Sharif, in which the latter agreed that the Pakistani army would withdraw from the Kargil heights. Some of us felt that the statement was not unequivocal enough, but after listening to others the prime minister felt that the statement was enough to ensure the withdrawal. He was right.

Vajpayee was able to develop a very close personal equation with Nawaz Sharif is well known. Though they first met at the South Asian Association fd_10- Spotlight hooperation (SAARC) summit in Colombo (August 1998), it was a few months later in New York; when both were in New York for the UN General Assembly session and Vajpayee hosted a lunch for Sharif that they hit it off very well. Both wanted to end the state of hostility and move on towards peace as good neighbours. Vajpayee always used to say: "You can choose your friends but not your neighbours". He, and Nawaz Sharif; staked their personal reputations and political equity on moving ahead but Pakistan's Deep State quickly realised that if the two succeeded; its bluff that India wanted to dismember Pakistan would be called. It had to strike back and ensure that till it controlled the narrative and power in Pakistan; there would be no movement ahead on the road to peace. Sharif was deposed by the military in 1999.

I would like to narrate two personal anecdotes that reflect his approach to policy and his caring nature. I was very upset when my wife's parents had to vacate their rentcontrolled house in Allahabad because the new owner was able to manoeuvre the system. Vajpayee's response was that personal considerations apart, owners of assets should have control over them and not be constrained by obsolete laws that distort the economy. That was evidence of an understanding of the economy from long years of being in public life. Not surprisingly; Vajpayee was able to move from disinvestment to privatisation; scrap the terrible system of telecom licences and move to a revenue-sharinq mode that unleashed the actual revolution in mobile phones

When it seemed that his government would not come back after it fell in April 1999; he was very worried that my career in the civil services would be affected and approved a foreign posting for me. Despite having never asked me, or any other civil servant, to perform a 'political' duty he was worried that someone could act vindictively. His concern was very touching.

Vajpayee was an uncompromising patriot; with a strong sense of his Hinduness, which was cultural and civilisational. That meant that the primary loyalty of citizens was to the country. Lacking a word; or even concept; for 'religion' in any Indian language; he used to publicly say that the State had no role in any individual's choice of upasana padhati (forms of worship). There could be no discrimination, or force, in the choice of belief systems. This was real secularism. However, conversions really bothered him, and visiting Gujarat's tribal-dominated district of Dang in the wake of alleged attacks on Christians by non-Christian tribals, he suggested a national debate on conversion. The media had grossly exaggerated the scale of violence and damage which were absolutely minor, and had ignored the tensions that arose when tribal customs were denigrated and mocked. Soon after, the heinous murder of the missionary Graham Staines and his sons took place in Odisha. To be fair, the Odisha government acted quickly, caught the murderers and successfully prosecuted them in court, but the killing really shook him and he never went back to the idea of the debate.

Naturally, the debate never took off; and an opportunity to strengthen inter-community relations through dialogue and the clearing of misunderstanding fell by the wayside. In fact; Vajpayee was pilloried for even making the suggestion. Despite no evidence that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, Bharatiya Janata Party or any related organisation was involved in such acts; many Opposition leaders and self-styled public intellectuals saw Vajpayee and his government as a , to the secular fabric of India.He would have found it ironic that the same people now cite him as the paragon of tolerance, which he was with or without these dubious certificates.

Mr Vajpayee, you will be missed. But the India of your dreams — economically prosperous with no poverty, with social harmony (Samajik Samrasta), and global political prestige — will not only live on but also be achieved. That will be the biggest tribute to the man.

Pranab Mukherjee

India had lost a great son and an era had come to an end, former president Pranab Mukherjee said on Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s death today, while describing the BJP stalwart as a reasoned critique in the opposition, who dominated the space like a titan, and a seeker of consensus as prime minister.

Describing him as a democrat to the core, Mukherjee, in a letter to Vajpayee’s adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya, said the former prime minister dominated the opposition space like a titan and led the government with aplomb.

He added that Vajpayee was an inheritor and practitioner of the best traditions and qualities of leadership as he expressed sadness at his demise.

“Deeply saddened at the passing away of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. A reasoned critique in opposition and a seeker of consensus as PM, Atal Ji was a democrat to the core. In his passing away, India has lost a great son and an era has come to an end. My deepest condolences,” Mukherjee said in a tweet.

“A democrat to the core, Atalji dominated the opposition space like a titan and led the government with aplomb. An inheritor and practitioner of the best traditions and qualities of leadership, in his demise the nation has lost a great son. An era that will forever be fondly remembered has passed away,” he wrote in his letter to Vajpayee’s daughter.

“I am deeply saddened at the passing away of Sh Atal Bihari Vajpayee and convey my heartfelt condolences to you, your family and millions of his admirers across the world,” he said, adding that no words could be of comfort in these difficult times, “however, please know that you and your family are in our prayers“.

Former prime minister Vajpayee, one of India’s most charismatic leaders who led the nation through several crises and held together a tenuous coalition with his inclusive politics, died here today. He was 93

Ram Nath Kovind

President Ram Nath Kovind today described Atal Bihari Vajpayee's death a personal loss for him and said it was the former prime minister's stature and dignity that attracted him to public life by giving up his legal profession.

Conveying his condolences on the death of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, president Ram Nath Kovind in his letter to the former prime minister's adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya, said that working with him was an unforgettable experience. "Atal ji's death is of course a personal loss for you and others at home. It is also a personal loss for me. It was his stature and dignity that attracted me to public life, as I gave up the legal profession to become his colleague," he said in the letter.

"Years later, when I called on him after being elected the President of India, he was bed-ridden but responded as only he could with a movement of his eyes. Silently I felt he blessed me," President Ram Nath Kovind said.

The president said millions of homes across the country have felt the loss on Atal Bihari Vajpayee's death.

"He was our much-loved former prime minister, a national leader of rare distinction and a statesman of modern India. In his long and distinguished public career, he touched innumerable lives in innumerable ways - as a freedom fighter and an intellectual, as a writer and a poet, as a parliamentarian and an administrator and finally as prime minister. He was truly the Renaissance Man of Indian politics," President Ram Nath Kovind said.

The loss of this large-hearted, larger-than-life leader will be felt not only in India but across the world, the president said.

As the Prime Minister of India, Atal ji was an example of grace under pressure, and of decisive leadership in challenging circumstances, he said, adding the Pokhran (nuclear) tests of 1998, the Kargil crisis of 1999, the economic changes his government brought about, and the growth and development track on which it put our country's GDP - his was a term rich in achievements and in legacy.

The Bharat Ratna conferred on him in 2015 was a fitting manifestation of India's affection and gratitude, the president said and asserted that the loss of this large-hearted, larger-than-life leader will be sensed not only in India but across the world.

"Please once more accept my deepest condolences and convey these to the countless friends and admirers of Atal ji. May the Almighty give you and other members of the family the strength and courage to bear this irreparable loss," he said in the letter to Bhattacharya.

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of India's most charismatic leaders who led the nation through several crises and held together a tenuous coalition with his inclusive politics, died in Delhi yesterday. He was 93.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a bachelor, is survived by his adopted daughter. His death was announced by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital, where he was admitted on June 11 with a variety of ailments.

Mamata Banerjee

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday termed former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's passing away a "very big loss" to the nation. "Very very saddened that the great statesman and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji is no more with us.

"His passing away is a very big loss to our nation. I will always cherish many fond memories with him. Condolences to his family and his many admirers," Mamata tweeted.

Vajpayee passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi after prolonged illness. He was 93.

L K Advani

NEW DELHI: Not knowing what to do on a day like this when he lost his "closest friend of 65 years," BJP veteran 90-year old LK could barely speak after he got the final news of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s demise around 5.30 pm on Thursday. Therefore he refused to meet any one and refused to speak. All he wanted to know was when and at what time should he reach, to pay his last tribute to his departed friend, older to him by three years.

Advani had already visited the hospital on Thursday morning and sat there in a waiting room for an hour, along with daughter Pratibha and his aide for years, Deepak Chopra. But he was restless since then and refused to speak to anybody as he was too overcome by emotion.

For a man who follows his daily routine to the tee, even when he stays home, he refused to step out of his bedroom till the time he had to get ready and go to the Krishna Menon Marg residence of the former Prime Minister where Vajpayee’s mortal remains would be taken from AIIMS, after he passed away at 5.05 pm on Thursday. It was only when former colleague and the ailing veteran leader Jaswant Singh’s wife arrived to meet Advani, unannounced that he agreed to meet her. But there was little that he had to say, both shared the grief of losing their "Atalji."

The 30, Prithviraj Road house was quiet and gloomy as if in mourning on Thursday afternoon, when the condolence message was written by Advani and sent out to the media by his office. The statement says it all that Advani could have said on a day when he lost his dear friend. Advani was always the first visitor at Vajpayee’s residence even in the last few years, on December 25, which was Vajpayee’s birthday.

Advani wrote: "I am at a loss of words to express my deep grief and sadness today as we all mourn the passing away of one of India’s tallest statesmen, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee . To me, Atalji was more than a senior colleague- in fact he was my closest friend for over 65 years."

"I cherish the memories of my long association with him, right from our days as Pracharaks of the RSS, to the inception of Bharatiya Jana Singh, the struggle of the dark months during the Emergency leading to the formation of Janata Party and later the emergence of the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980.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."

He further said, "As my senior, he always encouraged and guided me in every possible manner. His captivating leadership qualities, mesmerising oratory, soaring patriotism and above all, his sterling humane qualities like compassion, humility and his remarkable ability to win over adversories despite ideological differences have all had a profound effect on me in all my years in public life."

He added, I will miss Atalji immensely.