He lived in Lucknow and Lucknow lived in him. With his passing away, a part of Lucknow has also ceased to exist.
Lalji Tandon, 85, was one of the tallest BJP leaders in Uttar Pradesh but, more importantly, he belonged to a generation of politicians that no longer exists.
Tandon kept an open house and never hemmed in himself in political boundaries. His friends were found in every party and he would hold impromptu chat session with them on an almost daily basis.
Journalists, officers, political leaders, businessmen and people from all walks of life could troop in without an appointment and feel welcomed.
Lalji Tandon began his political journey as a member of the Legislative Council, went on to become a minister and then Member of Parliament before he was appointed Governor in Bihar and then Madhya Pradesh.
However, he made sure that he remained connected with the people, irrespective of their caste, class or stature.
His mornings were spent in his ancestral home in Sondhi Tola in Chowk area. Visitors were invariably treated to steaming hot ''jalebis'', ''samosas'' and ''makkhan malai'' -- a local delicacy.
His afternoons and evenings were spent in his official bungalow and fritters were served with endless cups of hot tea.
At regular intervals, he would host ''chat'' parties and personally attend to the guests amid political banter.
A close friend of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he never flaunted his connections, even though Vajpayee would invariably head to Tandon''s home for a meal whenever he was in Lucknow.
Lalji Tandon was a moderate when it came to political ideology. Though a committed party worker, he never came to the forefront of the Ram temple movement and steered clear of rabble rousing that was so typical of the era.
It was this posturing that endeared him to opposition leaders.
Journalists found a father figure in him and, often, vented their ire against the governments in his drawing room. He would simply smile away the blues and veer the conversation to other topics.
Lalji Tandon knew Lucknow like the back of his hand.
One could spend hours listening to his anecdotes about the Nawabs of Lucknow and the importance of the monuments of an era gone by.
A food connoisseur, he knew exactly which dish was cooked to perfection in which restaurant. He would relate the history or a dish, explain the ingredients that went into it and made no bones about his disdain for pizzas and burgers.
An excellent host, his parties would be known for their delicious spread -- all vegetarian -- and guests would often ask Tandon to fix the date for the next party even before one was over.
In Chowk area, where he lived all his life, Tandon enjoyed a remarkable rapport with the local people and it was only through his efforts that the area could be given a makeover after demolishing an ancient structure located in the middle of the market.
With his demise, an era of politics has come to an end in Uttar Pradesh -- an era where views were freely exchanged without rancour and malice, where social interactions rode over political boundaries and where friendships did not depend on class and status.
( 550 Words)