New delhi: Former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, one of India’s most charismatic leaders who led the nation through several crises while holding together a tenuous coalition with his inclusive politics and superlative oratory, died on Thursday. He was 93. Vajpayee, a bachelor, is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya. He will be cremated on Friday in New Delhi.
“It was Atalji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, leading the nation in mourning the demise of the nationalist stalwart whose popularity cut across party lines.
“He travelled across the length and breadth of India to spread the BJP’s message, which led to the BJP becoming a strong force in our national polity and in several states,” he added.
Vajpayee’s death was announced by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital where he was admitted on June 11 with a variety of ailments. “It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, at 5.05 pm,” the AIIMS said in a statement. It said his condition was stable for the last nine weeks, but “unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems.”
Time Line 1924: Born in Gwalior, India 1942: Arrested during the Quit India Movement 1951: Joins Bharatiya Jana Sangh 1957: Elected as LS member (1st term) 1968: Becomes BJS national chief 1975: Jailed during the Emergency 1977: Becomes foreign minister in the Janata Party govt 1980: Restarts BJS as BJP; becomes its first president 1998: Second term as PM begins. Govt lasts 13 months, Pokhran nuclear tests conducted 1999: Launches the Delhi-Lahore Bus service, Launches Operation Vijay to clear Kargil, Third term as PM begins 2001: Launches Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan 2004: BJP loses parliamentary elections 2005: Retires from politics 2009: Suffers a stroke 2014: 90th birthday observed as Good Governance Day. 2015: Awarded the Bharat Ratna
As it became clear that the end was near, a host of politicians and well-wishers began gathering at AIIMS since morning. A pall of gloom descended at the BJP headquarters as soon the news of Vajpayee’s demise broke. Modi said Vajpayee’s passing is a “personal and irreplaceable” loss for him and that his futuristic policies across various sectors touched the lives of each and every citizen of India.
“It was due to the perseverance and struggles of Atal Ji that the BJP was built brick by brick,” Modi said in a tweet.
The last rites of Mr Vajpayee will take place at 4 pm on Friday at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal in New Delhi, BJP chief Amit Shah said.
A seven-day state mourning was announced by the government as a mark of respect to Vajpayee.
Vajpayee, who joined the Rastriya Swamsevak Sangha (RSS) in 1947 rose through ranks to become a stalwart of the BJP and was the first non-Congress prime minister to complete a full term in office.
In the evening, Vajpayee’s body was taken to his residence at Krishna Menon marg in New Delhi where host of leaders cutting across party lines and people from different walks of life paid their last respects.
Seen as a moderate face of BJP, Vajpayee’s first became Prime Minister in 1996, leading a shaky coalition whose members were suspicious of the BJP’s right-wing politics. It lasted for 13 days and collapsed after losing a vote of no-confidence.
His second stint as Prime Minister was in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance again came to power but that lasted for just 13 months.
Finally, the NDA with Vajpayee as PM returned to power in 1999 and was voted out in 2004.
A lifelong bachelor, Vajpayee was first elected to Lok Sabha in 1957 from Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh in India’s second general elections. His maiden speech in Parliament so impressed his peers and colleagues that the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru introduced Vajpayee to a visiting foreign dignitary thus: “This young man one day will become the country’s prime minister.”
He remained a member of Parliament for 47 years elected 10 times to the Lok Sabha and twice to Rajya Sabha.