The great Indian leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away

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The great Indian leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away

Atal Bihari Vajpayee 25 December 1924, 16 August 2018 was an Indian politician who thrice served as the Prime Minister of India, 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.

When the Janata government collapsed, Vajpayee restructured the Jana Sangh into the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980. He was the first Indian prime minister who was not a member of the Indian National Congress party to have served a full five-year term in office.

He was conferred India’s highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, by the President of India in 2014. The Modi government declared in 2014 that Vajpayee’s birthday, 25 December, would be marked as Good Governance Day. He died on 16 August 2018 due to age related illness.

Early life and education

Vajpayee was born to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee on 25 December 1924 in Gwalior. His grandfather, Pandit Shyam Lal Vajpayee, had migrated to Morena, Gwalior from his ancestral village of Bateshwar, Uttar Pradesh. His father, Krishna Bihari Vajpayee, was a poet and a schoolmaster in his hometown. Vajpayee did his schooling from the Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Gorkhi, Bara, Gwalior. Vajpayee attended Gwalior’s Victoria College (now Laxmi Bai College) and graduated with distinction in Hindi, English and Sanskrit. He completed his post-graduation with an M.A. in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur, and was awarded a first-class degree.

His activism started with Arya Kumar Sabha of Gwalior, the youth wing of the Arya Samaj, of which he became the general secretary in 1944. He also joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a swayamsevak in 1939. Influenced by Babasaheb Apte, he attended the Officers Training Camp of the RSS during 1940–44 and became a “full-time worker” in 1947, technically a pracharak. He gave up studying law due to the partition riots. He was sent as a vistarak (probationary pracharak) to Uttar Pradesh and quickly began working for the newspapers of Deendayal Upadhyaya, Rashtradharma (a Hindi monthly), Panchjanya (a Hindi weekly) and the dailies Swadesh and Veer Arjun. Vajpayee never married and remained a bachelor his entire life

Early political career (1942–1975)

From 1975 to 1977, Vajpayee was arrested along with several other opposition leaders during the Internal Emergency imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of the Indian National Congress party.

Following Janata’s victory in the 1977 general elections, he became the Minister of External Affairs in Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s cabinet. As foreign minister, that year Vajpayee became the first person to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi. By the time the Janata government crumbled in 1979, Vajpayee had established himself as an experienced statesman and a respected political leader.

The Janata Party was dissolved soon after Morarji Desai resigned as Prime Minister in 1979. The Jana Sangh had devoted its political organisation to sustain the coalition and was left exhausted by the internecine political wars within the Janata Party.

Vajpayee joined many of his Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh colleagues, particularly his long-time friends L. K. Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980. He became the BJP’s first President. He emerged as a strong critic of the Congress (R) government that followed the Janata government.

While the BJP opposed the Sikh militancy that was rising in the state of Punjab, it also blamed Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for her “divisive and corrupt politics that fostered such militancy at the expense of national unity and integrity.” The BJP was left with only two parliamentary seats in the 1984 elections. During this period, Vajpayee remained at the centre-stage as party President and Leader of the Opposition in the Parliament.

The BJP became the political voice of the Ram Janmabhoomi Mandir Movement, which was led by activists of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the RSS, and which sought to build a temple dedicated to Lord Rama in Ayodhya.

Victory in the assembly elections in Gujarat and Maharashtra in March 1995, and a good performance in the elections to the Karnataka assembly in December 1994, propelled the BJP to greater political prominence. During a BJP conference in Mumbai in November 1995, BJP President L. K. Advani declared that Vajpayee would become the Prime Minister of India. The BJP won in the May 1996 parliamentary elections

Prime Ministership:

Vajpayee served as the Prime Minister of India between 1996 and 2004 in three non-consecutive terms.

First term: May 1996

The BJP grew in strength in the early 1995 riding on pro-nationalistic sentiments. In the 1996 general elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. The then president Shankar Dayal Sharma invited Vajpayee to form the government. Vajpayee was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of India, but the BJP failed to muster enough support from other parties to obtain a majority. He resigned after 13 days, when it became clear that he could not garner a majority.

Second term: 1998–1999

After the fall of the two United Front governments between 1996 and 1998, the Lok Sabha was dissolved and fresh elections were held. The 1998 general elections again put the BJP ahead of others. This time, a cohesive bloc of political parties joined the BJP to form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister.[17]

The NDA proved its majority in the parliament. The government lasted 13 months until mid-1999 when the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) under Jayalalithaa withdrew its support to the government. The government lost the ensuing vote of confidence motion in the Lok Sabha by a single vote on 17 April 1999. As the Opposition was unable to come up with the numbers to form the new government, the Lok Sabha was again dissolved and fresh elections were held. Vajpayee remaining the Prime Minister until the elections were held.

Third term: 1999–2004

In the 1999 general elections, the BJP-led NDA won 303 seats out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, in the aftermath of the Kargil operations, thereby securing a comfortable and stable majority. On 13 October 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee took oath as Prime Minister of India for the third time.

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