Atal Bihari Vajpayee, an iconic leader of Bharatiya Janata Party, was popularly known for his cultural moderation, liberalism and political reasonableness. The veteran Indian politician, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, served as the 10th Prime Minister of India. His Prime Ministerial tenure includes three non-consecutive terms – the first for 15 days (from 16 May 1996 to 1 June 1996), the second for a period of 13 months (from 19 March 1998 to 26 April 1999) and the third for five years (from 13 October 1999 till 22 May 2004). Till his death, Mr Vajpayee was the only non-Congress prime minister to complete the full term of five years, from 1999 to 2004.
Vajpayee’s first exposure to politics was in August 1942, when he and his elder brother Prem actively participated in India’s freedom struggle movement – Quit India movement. Although Vajpayee started as a communist but later transcended his political roots to emerge as the moderate voice of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) under the leadership of Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee. As the new leader of BJS, Vajpayee was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1957 from Balrampur. He rose to become the national president of the Jana Sangh in 1968. Supported by his colleagues Nanaji Deshmukh, Balraj Madhok and L K Advani, Vajpayee took the Jana Sangh to greater glory.
Vajpayee, despite enrooting himself in BJS family, always praised Jawaharlal Nehru and proudly insisted to continue Nehru’s legacy. The then young Jana Sangh member of Lok Sabha, Vajpayee once gave a stirring speech after Nehru’s demise, comparing him with Lord Rama.
Vajpayee described Nehru saying – “he was the orchestrator of the impossible and inconceivable. Nehru had that vibrance and independence of mind, that quality of being able to befriend the opponent and enemy, that gentlemanliness, that greatness — this will not perhaps be found in the future”.
An orator par excellence, Vajpayee had earned much fame as India’s external affairs minister in PM Morarji Desai government during which tenure he delivered a widely acclaimed speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi. Vajpayee had always been praised for his conciliatory gestures toward India’s Muslim minority. Under his leadership, India achieved steady economic growth and the country had become a world leader in information technology.
Among the several milestones in his brief period of the ruling, Vajpayee made India a nuclear weapon state. In 1998, India conducted five nuclear tests in one week. India conducted its second nuclear test under his leadership in May 1998. As a Prime Minister, he led India during times of cries like the Kargil War in 1999 and the terror attack on the Indian Parliament in 2001. He was the man behind telecom revolution.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was conferred upon India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna on 27 March 2015. For his ‘active participation’ in the country’s struggle for freedom, Atal Bihar Vajpayee was felicitated with Bangladesh’s Liberation War Honour by the Government of Bangladesh on 7 June 2015.
Vajpayee was a poet of some repute and was often quoted by his party members. He once said about his poetry,
“My poetry is a declaration of war, not an exordium to defeat. It is not the defeated soldier’s drumbeat of despair, but the fighting warrior’s will to win. It is not the despirited voice of dejection but the stirring shout of victory.
Fondly called ‘baapji’ by many of his friends and relatives, Vajpayee remained unmarried for his entire life. However, Rajkumari Kaul was known to be the better half Atal Bihari Vajpayee never had and yet she was always at his side.