It was on an afternoon on the eve of 1977 general elections, my elder brother Girijakanta Mahapatra, then a student leader in Janata Party, was rushing towards Market Building, Puri. Post- emergency period was witnessing a wave of contempt against Congress. Among tall leaders like Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, LK Advani and George Fernandez, Vajpayee was the biggest crowd puller.I was then just 11 years old and my brother was in his early twenties. From newspapers I knew about Vajpyee coming to Puri. I heard that Vajpayee was a great orator. Padma Charan Samantasimhara was the candidate for Lok Sabha on Janata party ticket.
As my brother stepped out of home, I followed him. He looked at me with curiousity. Willy nilly he agreed. There was a massive crowd notwithstanding extreme sultry and humid weather. We two
brothers were looking for a place under the roof of market building front setback. People were losing patience. Vajpayee was getting late. There were some rumours that he might not come.
There was a sudden downpour. As it became heavier, crowd started to disperse. Meanwhile some jeeps and a white ambassador car reached near the stage. Amidst blowing of whistles and loudspeakers started blaring “Vajpayee swagatam”
Amidst outburst of slogans, Vajpayee was welcomed with white garlands. It was heavily raining. Vajpayee rushed to the podium. One gentleman was holding an umbrella over him.
As he hit the podium, he started, “Jeise yahaan aakash mein aaj kala kala badal chai hui hei aise aaj desh ke rajnaitik aakash mein kaala kaala baadal chai hui hei”.
(In the manner here today’s sky is overcast with black clouds, our country’s political sky is overcast by thick black clouds )The impact was magical. It was a scene worth remembering. From various sides people were running towards the stage. Crowd was surging. Vajpayee was continuing with his dramatic style of oratory amidst tumultuous applauds.
“”Log bol rahen hei ki unko pine keliye pani nehin milrahi hei. Aur Indiraji (Indira Gandhi) bol rahen hei, pani nehin to ghee peeelo aur ghee nehin to beer peelo”.
(People say they are not getting drinking water and Indiraji says drink ghee if you do not get water and if not water then drink beer) While clouds were coming crashing towards the ground amidst repeated thunders, applauds were no less. My brother was telling his friend Nira Padhi , who was there with us then that “there is magic in his speech and we need to learn that”.
Sometime in 1997, when a group of people from Pakistan were being welcomed at Birla Temple here by a BJP MP from Raipur. Vajpayee ji had come to interact with them amidst prasad during lunch time. I, being a PTI reporter then, had the occasion to see him and interact with him there. It was reminding me that such was the man who had conjured the eyes of all at Puri in 1977 .
Our rich tribute to the departed soul who made himself relevant to all individuals across the country. The memory of Vajpayee is already etched in the hearts of people as the people’s prime minister and it will continue for ages.
By Biraja Mahapatra