Former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away on Thursday, 16 August at Delhi’s AIIMS hospital, a medical bulletin issued by the All India Institute for Medical Sciences (AIIMS) on 16 August said.
Vajpayee had been ailing for long and was admitted to AIIMS on 11 June, after being diagnosed with kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection, low urine output and chest congestion.
India is mourning on his death.
May his soul rest in peace.
In 1957, a first-timer’s debut speech in parliament so impressed then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he predicted, while introducing the young politician to a foreign dignitary, “this young man will one day become prime minister”. Atal Bihari Vajpayee did so, thrice.
He ruled the country for 13 days in 1996, 13 months in 1998 and for almost six years from 1999.
Considered the gold standard of leadership in the ruling BJP, Mr Vajpayee became the first politician to truly challenge the legacy of the Congress, the grand old party, as he was the first non-Congress prime minister to last a full term.
In his 47 years in parliament, the former prime minister captivated the nation with his dry wit and oratory, proving that no one could work the room quite like he could.
“Satta ka khel chalega (the game of power will go on). Governments will come and go. Parties will be made and unmade. This country should survive, its democracy should survive,” Mr Vajpayee said in a speech before his government faced a trust vote in May 1996. His 13-day government fell soon after.
Governments did come and go but Mr Vajpayee was to return to power twice after that.
“We bow to majority and we will not rest until we fulfill our national mission. Mister Speaker, here comes my resignation,” Mr Vajpayee said in the memorable speech that remains hugely popular on YouTube.
In 1999, his government lost a no-confidence motion by one vote. During his speech, he did not once attack Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who had declared to the media, only to regret it for years to come – “We have 272”.
His sparkling oratory was again on display when he spoke about the 1998 Pokhran nuclear tests under his leadership. “It is surprising that people are criticizing the nuclear tests. When in 1974 then prime minister Indira Gandhi had carried out the tests, we welcomed it even while we were in the opposition. Was there any threat to the nation at the time,” he said in parliament.
Poetry was his most preferred expression and telegraphed his message in a few well-chosen words more effectively than a one-hour speech.
He debuted in parliament in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha. It was only nine years later that he won an election. He was elected to the Lok Sabha seven times.
He spent months in prison in the Emergency Rule of 1975 imposed by Indira Gandhi’s Congress government.
In the Janata government that came to power in 1977, Mr Vajpayee became foreign minister.
Mr Vajpayee, who rose to spectacular heights, was no stranger to rock-bottom in his political journey. In 1984, after Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the BJP that he set up with his long-time friend and colleague LK Advani managed to win just two seats in the 545-member parliament. Mr Vajpayee also lost in Gwalior, his birthplace.
In the 1990s, the party captured the nation’s attention with the “Ram Janmabhoomi movement” for a temple at the site of the 16th century Babri mosque in Ayodhya that many Hindus believe was built on the birthplace of Lord Ram.
Mr Vajpayee was the only voice in his party who called it the “worst miscalculation” when karsewaks or volunteers razed the mosque in 1992.
Having steadily raised the score since 1984, Mr Vajpayee formed his third government in 1999. It was to last almost six years.
Sometime after the Kargil conflict ended in 1999, some BJP leaders suggested that the prime minister approve their proposal to honour Atal Bihari Vajpayee with the country’s highest civilian award for the nuclear tests.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the prime minister, would have none of it.
The Bharat Ratna did come to him 16 years later. By then, he had retreated from politics and was barely ever seen in public.
Since 2009, Mr Vajpayee had largely been confined to his home because of his health.
It was a reflection of his politics and statesmanship that politicians across the spectrum rushed to Delhi to pay their respects to the veteran. When he was brought to AIIMS hospital in June, one of the first to check on him had been Rahul Gandhi of the Congress.>