BJP plans national push to cement Atal's legacy

NEW DELHI, Aug. 22 -- As a part of its larger national effort to both celebrate the life and perpetuate the political legacy of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah will hand over to the party's state unit chiefs urns containing Vajpayee's ashes on Wednesday. The leaders will then take out yatras in their respective states, before the urns are immersed in different rivers across the country, a senior BJP leader said.

This is only one element in a larger push by the party, and the states ruled by the party, to entrench Vajpayee's contribution in national memory - from renaming schemes, projects, universities, and cities, to introducing his life in school textbooks.

Wednesday's event has been organised at the BJP's old office on Ashoka Road, which served as the party headquarters during Vajpayee's active days in politics, the leader cited above said. "He was our tallest leader and the events following his death will be large in scale," added the leader, who asked not to be named.

A second leader said the response to his death over the past few days had shown that Vajpayee, despite being away from the limelight for close to a decade, still had a special place in the public imagination. "It is the party's duty to take the message of his life across the country," he said.

Vajpayee died on August 16 at the age of 93. An all-party prayer meeting, held in his memory, in New Delhi on August 20 saw leaders from different ideologies in attendance. The BJP has put on hold till August 28 all other party events, to organise prayer meetings, 'Kalash Yatras', and other events in memory of Vajpayee.

Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh announced that Naya Raipur - the administrative capital of the tribal state - will be named Atal Nagar, Bilaspur University as Atal Bihari Vajpayee University, and narrow gauge lines as Atal Path.

Maharashtra's finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar announced setting up of a study chair in the name of Vajpayee in each of its 13 universities. The state unit of the BJP will also organise a prayer meeting in Mumbai on Wednesday and in 13 other cities over the next week. Vajpayee's ashes will be immersed in 11 rivers of these 13 cities, Mungantiwar said.

The Himachal Pradesh government, too, has decided to recommend to the Centre to name the soon-to-be-ready Rohtang tunnel, which links the Lahaul valley with the rest of the world, after Vajpayee. A statue of Vajpayee will be erected at the Mall or the ridge in Shimla and a memorial built in Manali. The state cabinet also decided to rename the 'Mukhya Mantri Adarsh Vidya Kendra Scheme' launched by the state government as 'Atal Adarsh Vidya Kendra' and 'Mukhya Mantri Aashirwad Scheme' as 'Atal Aashirwad scheme'. The state cabinet also decided to send a proposal to the union government to rename the Kol Dam project after Vajpayee.

The Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP, too, announced that Vajpayee's ashes will be immersed at six locations in the state, including the Cauvery river, on August 26. The BJP state president, Tamilisai Soundararajan, said the ashes would be immersed in the sea at Chennai, Rameswaram and Kanniyakumari.

Karnataka BJP chief BS Yeddyurappa also announced that Vajpayee's ashes will be immersed in eight rivers in the state, including the Cauvery.

The Madhya Pradesh unit of the BJP will take out 10 'Kalash Yatras' in different parts of the state before the ashes are immersed in different rivers. Nine of the yatras will commence from the BJP state headquarters in Bhopal, while a tenth one will begin from Gwalior, Vajpayee's birthplace, said state BJP media cell in-charge Lokendra Parashar. Madhya Pradesh goes to polls later this year.

In Uttarakhand, the director of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Rishikesh, Ravikant, said a 750-seat auditorium being built in the campus will be named after the former prime minister.

BJP-ruled Jharkhand announced on Tuesday that the life and thoughts of the former prime minister will be included in the school curriculum.



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