Glowing tributes were paid to Bhairon Singh Shekhawat with President Pratibha Patil recalling his humble beginnings, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declaring the former Vice President as one of the “tallest” leaders and Atal Bihari Vajpayee describing his death as end of an era in Indian politics.
“It is a tribute to Shekhawat’s leadership qualities that he overcame the disadvantages of his early life to carve out a sterling career in public service,” said the Prime Minister, adding that the late leader was one of the tallest leaders that Rajasthan has produced.
Describing Mr. Shekhawat as “Ajatshatru” and a mass leader attached to grassroots, Mr. Vajpayee said, “I cannot bear his loss. His death has left me stunned” as he was a “close friend” with whom “I had seen many up and downs in politics.”
His death is the end of an era in Indian politics.
Mr. Shekhawat’s journey from a police personnel to Vice President of India was reflective of his hard work and determination, he said, adding that the late leader was one of the “founding pillars” of the erstwhile Jansangh as later the BJP.
The Prime Minister said as a social worker and public figure, Mr. Shekhawat who was thrice Chief Minister of Rajasthan, always stood up for his principles.
“It was an exceptional courage of conviction which led him to condemn the 1982 Deorala incident of Sati at a time when a few in his party and state were willing to speak out against it”, he said.
The former Rajasthan Chief Minister’s persona was one of rare charisma. “Together with a few others, he defined a whole era in the Bharatiya Janata Party. His many qualities of head and heart included a liberal outlook and generosity of spirit,” the Prime Minister recalled.
Echoing similar sentiments, President Pratibha Patil who contested against Mr. Shekhawat in the 2007 Presidential polls, said, “Shekhawat was a personality who deeply understood the concerns and aspirations of the poorest of the poor.”
In her condolence message to Suraj Kanwar, wife of the late leader, Ms. Patil said Mr. Shekhawat’s understanding of the desires of the common man was a result of his experiences early in his life when he had to give up his education to support his family following his father’s death.
Vice President Hamid Ansari who succeeded Mr. Shekhawat, said the late leader occupied with distinction the office of the Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha.
“He earned the respect and admiration of the people for his dedication, sense of public service and innate simplicity. His services to the country shall always be remembered,” he said.
BJP Parliamentary Party Chairman L.K. Advani recalled how Mr. Shekhawat stood by the then Bharatiya Jan Sangh in supporting a Rajasthan government legislation for abolishing “jagirdari” system.
Mr. Shekhawat ensured that the Antodaya scheme meant to reach the benefits of development to the last man in the queue was implemented in the right earnest, Mr. Advani said adding, “It is a great loss for BJP and the nation.”
Tamil Nadu Governor S.S. Barnala said Mr. Shekhawat was known for his simplicity. He had dedicated himself to the cause of the poor and downtrodden.
Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan said Mr. Shekhawat was a pragmatic leader with enviable popularity.
Madhya Pradesh Governor Rameshwar Thakur said Mr. Shekhawat was among those who have always helped the poor and contributed immensely towards the development of agriculture and farmers’ welfare.
Uttarakhand Governor Margaret Alva, her Gujarat counterpart Kamla, Jharkhand Governor M.OH. Farooq and Lt Governor of Puducherry Iqbal Singh also condoled his death.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said he was always connected with rural India, while Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi said Shekhawat had proved himself to be an able administrator.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, who had earlier visited the SMS hospital to meet the ailing leader, said Mr. Shekhawat was one of the rare politicians who had a unique identity.
Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal, AIADMK supremo J. Jayalalithaa, JD(U) President Sharad Yadav, Union Ministers C.P. Joshi and Ghulam Nabi Azad, TDP chief N. Chandrababu Naidu and expelled BJP leader Jaswant Singh also condoled his death.