New Delhi/Lucknow, Dec 26 (IANS) The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Friday observed the 85th birthday of party stalwart and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee by organising feasts for the poor and a blood donation camp. Senior party leaders visited his residence to greet him as did Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Manmohan Singh reached Vajpayee's residence at Krishna Menon Marg to wish him a happy birthday. New BJP president Nitin Gadkari, senior leader L.K. Advani and party chief ministers of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh were also among those who greeted him.
A blood donation camp was held at the party's central office in Delhi. The Bharatiya Janata Party Yuva Morcha had arranged a "laddoo" weighing 86 kg which was cut by Gadkari in the party office. Books were distributed among poor children.
A "bhajan sandhya" (programme of devotional music) was organised in the evening which was attended by Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, Indian National Lok Dal chief Om Prakash Chautala, Shiv Sena leader Manohar Joshi and Biju Janata Dal leader B.J. Panda.
In Lucknow, BJP members celebrated Vajpayee's birthday with prayers for his long life and organised feasts for the poor.
BJP cadres in Lucknow, which Vajpayee represented for five consecutive terms in the Lok Sabha, distributed fruits to patients in various hospitals and khichdi (gruel) to the poor to mark their leader's birthday, a party official said.
At least 50 hoardings bearing massive pictures of Vajpayee were set up in several places in Lucknow. The hoardings read in Sanskrit: "May you live for 100 years."
BJP activists also lit earthen diyas (lamps) at the Sandohan Devi Temple in Lucknow's Chowk area and organised recitation of "Sundar kand" (a part of the holy Ram Charitra Manas).
Born into the family of a school teacher Dec 25, 1924, in Gwalior, Vajpayee rose to become prime minister and held the post thrice. He is the only non-Congress prime minister to complete full term in office. He has not been seen in public for over a year.
A veteran parliamentarian, Vajpayee's political career stretches over four decades.