Former prime minister of India and BJP stalwart - Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in the national capital Delhi, on Thursday. He was 93.
Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee was born in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh state, on 25 December 1924.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as the Prime Minister of India on three occasions, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, for a period of eleven months from 1998 to 1999 and then for a full term from 1999 to 2004. He was a member of the Indian Parliament for over four decades, being elected to the Lok Sabha, the lower house, ten times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. He served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh until 2009 when he retired from active politics due to health concerns.
Vajpayee was among the founding members of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh which he also headed from 1968 to 1972. He was the Minister of External Affairs in the cabinet of Prime Minister Morarji Desai. He was conferred India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in 2015.
Vajpayee was one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which currently governs India.
He had retreated from active public life over the last decade following the deterioration of his health and remained restricted to his residence. A host of leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the BJP patriarch at AIIMS.
During his second term as prime minister, Vajpayee ordered nuclear tests in May 1998 in a strategic masterstroke to blunt Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions. He followed this up with peace overtures to Pakistan, riding on the first direct bus from India to Pakistan in February 1999.
During his administration, Vajpayee introduced many domestic, economic and infrastructural reforms, including encouraging the private sector and foreign investments, reducing governmental waste, encouraging research and development and privatization of some government-owned corporations. Vajpayee's pet projects were the National Highways Development Project and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana.
In March 2000 while Vajpayee was PM, Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, paid a state visit to India. It was the first state visit to India by a US President in 22 years. President Clinton's visit to India was hailed as a significant milestone in the relations between the two countries. Since the visit came barely two years after the Pokhran tests, and one year after the Kargil invasion and the subsequent coup in Pakistan, it was read to reflect a major shift in the post-Cold War foreign policy of the United States.
The Indian Prime Minister and the U.S. President discussed strategic issues, but the major achievement was a significant expansion in trade and economic ties. Prime Minister Vajpayee and President Clinton signed the Historic Vision Document on the future course of relations between the two countries during the visit.
Several leaders around the world have condoled the death of the former Prime Minister. Pakistan Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan has also condoled the death of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He said that he was a tall political personality of the subcontinent.
Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina also condoled the death of former PM. “Deeply shocked at the sad demise of former PM of India Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of the most famous sons of India. He'll be remembered for contributing towards good governance and highlighting issues affecting common people of India as well as regional peace & prosperity”, she said.
“Vajpayee was a patriot to the core, for whom national interest was paramount,” remarked Sonia Gandhi the former President of the Congress Party.
Our assessment is that the former Prime Minister is one of the tallest and charismatic leaders of modern India. He was an orator par excellence and was considered as the moderate voice of the Bharatiya Janata Party.