Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the most popular leaders of modern India, died on Thursday. He was 93.
In a moving tribute, LK Advani, his colleague in the erstwhile Jan Sangh and subsequently the Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), said he was his closest friend for 65 years.
Advani who served home minister and later as deputy prime minister when Vajpayee was prime minister, said he always encouraged and guided him in every possible manner.
Here is the full statement released by LK Advani on Atal Bihari Vajpayee's death:
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.
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.
I will miss Atalji immensely...