Udupi, August 16: Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who died after prolonged illness at AIIMS at New Delhi on Thursday, had visited Udupi, the temple town, six times in his lifetime.

When Vajpayee was the national president of Bharatiya Jan Sangh (earlier name of BJP) in 1968, the Jan Sangh had come to power at New Delhi and Udupi city municipal councils with clear majority for the first time. When Udupi city municipal council came into existence, the Jan Sangh had come to power and when Dr VS Acharya was elected as the president, Vajpayee had called him over phone and congratulated him, M Somashekar Bhat who was elected as then Udupi city municipal council member, recalled.

When the Udupi city municipal council had banned carrying excreta on head for the first time in the country, Vajpayee had congratulated Dr Acharya in 1968. In the same year, Vajpayee had participated in a special programme of the city municipal council held in front of the Pejawar Mutt on Ratha Beedi, recalled another senior leader Gujjadi Prabhakar Nayak who became the city municipal council president later.

Somashekar Bhat recalled his stay with Vajpayee, LK Advani and other leaders in Bengaluru jail when Indira Gandhi jailed the opposition leaders during Emergency in 1975.

In the Lok Sabha elections held after withdrawing the Emergency in 1977, Vajpayee had visited Udupi to campaign in favour of former Supreme Court Judge Justice KS Hegde and he had also participated in that meeting, recollected Gujjadi.

Somashekar Bhat recalled that Vajpayee had visited Udupi in 1984 to campaign in favour of himself who contested for Assembly from BJP and Karamballi Sanjeeva Shetty who contested for Lok Sabha elections and addressed the people in front of Victoria Jubilee Hall before the city municipal council. Though both of them were defeated in that election, they were able to retain the deposits and it was because of the speech and visit of Vajpayee, Bhat said.

In 1993, Vajpayee again visited Udupi. While returning from Shivamogga, he had visited Udupi and he was welcomed in front of the city municipal council and felicitated him. In 1998, Vajpayee visited Udupi for the fifth time. He had come to the city to campaign in favour of IM Jayaram Shetty who had contested for Lok Sabha election. Thousands of people thronged the Bhujanga Park where the rally was held to listen to his speech. In the same year, he had also visited Mangaluru to campaign in favour of Dhananjay Kumar.

As the last time, Vajpayee had come to Udupi in 2001 to inaugurate the newly constructed Rajangana by Pejawar seer during the fourth Paryaya of Pejawar seer at Krishna Mutt. On January 18, 2001, Vajpayee, along with Vishvesha Tirtha Swamiji, had darshan of Lord Sri Krishna and inaugurated the Rajangana in the evening. He was felicitated by the Pejawar Mutt then.

Vajpayee had many friends for in Udupi including Dr VS Acharya, Somashekar Bhat, Karamballi Sanjeeva Shetty and others. Dr VS Acharya was recalling his friendship with Vajpayee and LK Advani.


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Washington, Mar 4: US Vice President Kamala Harris has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza for at least the next six weeks, as she called on the Israeli government to "do more" to increase the flow of aid in the war-ravaged enclave.

Harris made the ceasefire call on Sunday during a speech in Selma, Alabama, to commemorate the 59th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, the annual remembrance of the landmark civil rights movement.

"The threat Hamas poses to the people of Israel must be eliminated, and given the immense scale of suffering in Gaza, there must be an immediate ceasefire for at least the next six weeks, which is what is currently on the table," Harris, 59, said.

"This will get the hostages out and get a significant amount of aid. This would allow us to build something more enduring to ensure Israel is more secure and to respect the right of the Palestinian people to dignity, freedom, and self-determination," the Indian-American leader said amidst applause from the audience.

"Hamas claims it wants a ceasefire. Well, there is a deal on the table. And as we have said, Hamas needs to agree to that deal. Let's get a ceasefire. Let's reunite the hostages with their families. And let's provide immediate relief to the people of Gaza," Harris, a Democrat, said.

Meanwhile, Indian-American Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal immediately welcomed the call.

"The Vice President has called for an immediate ceasefire and urgent aid into Gaza. This is the first time this language has been used by the administration. It is important. Now let's back it up with a policy shift," said the 58-year-old Democratic lawmaker.

Addressing the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, Harris said, "What we are seeing every day in Gaza is devastating. We have seen reports of families eating leaves or animal feed, women giving birth to malnourished babies with little or no medical care, and children dying from malnutrition and dehydration."

Asserting that too many innocent Palestinians have been killed, she said, "Just a few days ago, we saw hungry, desperate people approach aid trucks, simply trying to secure food for their families after weeks of nearly no aid reaching Northern Gaza."

"And they were met with gunfire and chaos. Our hearts break for the victims of that horrific tragedy and for all the innocent people in Gaza who are suffering from what is clearly a humanitarian catastrophe," Harris said amidst applause from the audience.

"People in Gaza are starving. The conditions are inhumane. And our common humanity compels us to act. As President Joe Biden said on Friday, the United States is committed to urgently get more lifesaving assistance to innocent Palestinians in need," she said.

"Yesterday, the Department of Defence carried out its first airdrop of humanitarian assistance, and the United States will continue these airdrops. And we will work on a new route by sea to deliver aid," she said.

"And the Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses. They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, sites, and convoys are not targeted. And they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza so more food, water, and fuel can reach those in need," Harris said.

At the same time, Harris said that Israel has a right to defend itself. "And President Joe Biden and I are unwavering in our commitment to Israel's security," she said.

A day earlier, the Central Command and the Royal Jordanian Air Force conducted a combined humanitarian assistance airdrop into Gaza between 3:00 and 5:00 pm to provide essential relief to civilians affected by the ongoing conflict.

Various C-130 aircraft dropped 38,000 meals along the Gaza coastline, allowing civilian access to critical assistance.

"And those locations were chosen specifically as areas where we thought people would be able to best access the aid. There were 66 total bundles, 22 on each aircraft, which were dropped into Gaza to help alleviate the intense hunger and desperate situation there," a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call.