For Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Lucknow Was Home – And Much More

From his love for Lucknow food and his unfulfilled dream of owning a house in the city, why Vajpayee loved Lucknow.

3 min read
A mourner holds a portrait of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as he stands with others outside the BJP headquarters on 17 August.

“I was from Lucknow, I am from Lucknow and I will stay in Lucknow.”

On each of his visits to the city, Atal Bihari Vajpayee would say so. A city he said he wasn’t a guest in, but a host at.

And his connection traced back to the time when India was still not an independent nation.

His Stint As Magazine Editor

In 1947, when Bhaurao Devras and Deendayal Upadhyay were the prant pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the organisation decided to start a magazine in Lucknow to promote its ideology. The magazine was called Rashtra Dharma – and Vajpayee was made its editor.

At that time, no Hindi magazine printed more than 500 copies. But 3,000 copies of the first edition of Rashtra Dharma was printed and sold in no time. An additional 500 copies were printed to meet the high demand. Some 8,000 copies of the second issue, and 12,000 copies of the third issue followed.

After the success of Rashtra Dharma, the Sangh decided to start a weekly magazine – the Panchjanya – in 1948. Vajpayee went on to head both the magazines simultaneously.


A Fan Of Local Food

It was no secret that Vajpayee was a big fan of the food of Lucknow – from its local paan to thandai. Even after he became an MP, he would eat at Tiwari Chaat in Ganesh Ganj. According to owner Deep Prakash Tiwari, Vajpayee’s visit to Lucknow was not complete without a visit to his eatery. He also added that dahi bara was one of his favourite chaat items. He was also a self-confessed fan of Shambu’s jalebi.


A Five-Time MP From Lucknow

Vajpayee was elected MP from the Lucknow seat five times.

After losing the elections in 1954, 1957 and 1962, he did not contest elections from here till 1991. But he still continued to visit Lucknow regularly.

Ahead of the 1991 Lok Sabha elections, he said:

What did you think, you’ll get rid of me that easily? That’s not going to happen. Where else will my heart find peace? Lucknow is my home. I can’t break the relationship with me so easily.

Vajpayee went on to win the seat that year and became an MP from Lucknow in 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004.

He did not contest elections from 2009 due to his poor health.


Unfulfilled Dream of A Lucknow Home

Vajpayee rarely stayed at the guest house during his visits to Lucknow. He wanted to own a house in the city’s Bakshi Ka Talab area. He said the area’s greenery lured him.


Kalantri Nivas Home to Political Class

Kalantri Niwas, Marwadi Gali in Aminabad area of Lucknow.
Kalantri Niwas, Marwadi Gali in Aminabad area of Lucknow.
(Photo: The Quint)

Vajpayee’s political classes were held at Kalantri Niwas, Marwadi Gali in Aminabad area of Lucknow. He lived there for a few years – he stayed there when he came to Lucknow after completing his studies in Kanpur.

At that time, senior advocate at the high court and social worker, the late Krishna Gopal Kalantri, and P Deendayal were his close friends.

Rajendra Gopal Kalanti, the son of the late Krishna Gopal, said that even though there was a difference of eight to 10 years between Vajpayee and his father, their friendship was very strong.

When he came to Lucknow in the 1950s, he frequented the homes of his friends – and in the early days Kalantri Niwas was his base.

Rajendra Gopal says that long meetings of the Jan Sangh used to be held regularly in the hall-like room upstairs. Often they would go from morning to noon to night, he added.

It was during one such meeting at that house that it was decided that Vajpayee would fight in Lok Sabha elections.

(This story was originally published on Quint Hindi and has been translated by Mariam Shaheen and Mythreyee Ramesh)

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