New Delhi: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a three-time prime minister of India, a Bharat Ratna and a stalwart of Indian politics who represented the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi on Thursday. He was 93.
Vajpayee, whose first term as the Prime Minister lasted only 13 days in 1996, returned to the top position in 1998 to lead the nation till 2004.
He was admitted to the hospital on June 11 with a kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection, low urine output and chest congestion.
His death was declared by AIIMS at 05:05 PM.
A bachelor all his life, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 2015, India’s highest civilian honour.
The External Affairs Minister in the cabinet of the Morarji Desai government in late 70s, he was a Member of Parliament (MP) for over four decades.
He was elected to the Lok Sabha (lower house) ten times and twice to the Rajya Sabha (upper house).
He represented the Lucknow parliamentary seat in Uttar Pradesh until 2009 when he retired from active politics.
Considered a moderate and a voice of reason, he was among the founding members of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh- the predecessor of the present day BJP. He had headed it from 1968 to 1972.
He was born on Dec 25, 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh. His father was a schoolmaster.
One of the politicians of India who was held in high esteem by all political parties cutting across ideologies, his birthday is celebrated by the government as Good Governance Day.
Vajpayee first joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological patron of the BJP, in 1939 and in 1951, he was entrusted to work with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of BJP.
Vajpayee despite being a voice of the Hindu nationalist BJP was critical of the demolition of the disputed Ram Janmabhoomi Babri Masjid structure in 1992.
It was also in his tenure that India conducted its second nuclear test in 1998 in Rajasthan’s Pokhran, which led to sanctions against India by countries including the US and Japan.
His tenure was marked by the Kargil War of 1999 and the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat when his government came under sharp attack.
It was also under his tenure that India undertook the National Highways Development Project (NHDP) to upgrade and widen major highways in the country to a higher standard.