Atal Bihari Vajpayee : 10th Prime Minister of India

Prime Minister

In Office

19 March 1998 – 22 May 2004

PresidentK. R. NarayananA. P. J. Abdul Kalam
DeputyL. K. Advani
Preceded byInder Kumar Gujral
Succeeded byManmohan Singh

16 May 1996 – 1 June 1996

PresidentShankar Dayal Sharma
Preceded byP. V. Narasimha Rao
Succeeded byH. D. Deve Gowda

Minister of External Affairs

In Office

26 March 1977 – 28 July 1979

Prime MinisterMorarji Desai
Preceded byYashwantrao Chavan
Succeeded byShyam Nandan Prasad Mishra

Member of Parliament, Lok Sabha

In Office

1991–2009

Preceded byMandhata Singh
Succeeded byLalji Tandon
ConstituencyLucknow

1977–1984

Preceded byMukul Banerji
Succeeded byK. C. Pant
ConstituencyNew Delhi

1971–1977

Preceded byRam Awtar Sharma
Succeeded byNarain Krishna Rao Shejwalker
ConstituencyGwalior

1967–1971

Preceded bySubhadra Joshi
Succeeded byChandra Bhal Mani Tiwari
ConstituencyBalrampur

1957–1962

Succeeded bySubhadra Joshi
ConstituencyBalrampur

Member of Parliament, Rajya Sabha

In office

1986–1991

ConstituencyMadhya Pradesh

1962–1967

ConstituencyUttar Pradesh

Founder – President of Bharatiya Janata Party

In Office

1980–1986

Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byL. K. Advani

11th President of Akhil Bharatiya Jana Sangh

1968 – 1972

Preceded byDeen Dayal Upadhyaya
Succeeded byL. K. Advani

Personal

Born25 December 1924
GwaliorGwalior StateBritish India (present-day Madhya PradeshIndia)
Died16 August 2018 (aged 93)
New DelhiDelhi, India
MonumentsSadaiv Atal
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party(1980–2018)
Other political
affiliations
Janata Party (1977–1980)
Bharatiya Jana Sangh(1951–1977)
Alma materMaharani Laxmi Bai Govt. College of Excellence(B.A.)DAV College, Kanpur (M.A.)(at the time of graduation, both were affiliated with Agra University)
ProfessionWriterpoliticianpoet
AwardsBharat Ratna (2015)
Padma Vibhushan (1992)

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Bihari also spelled Behari, (born December 25, 1924, GwaliorMadhya Pradesh, India—died August 16, 2018, New Delhi, Delhi), leader of the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and twice prime minister of India (1996; 1998–2004).

Vajpayee was first elected to parliament in 1957 as a member of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), a forerunner of the BJP. In 1977 the BJS joined three other parties to form the Janata Party, which led a government that lasted until July 1979. As foreign minister in the Janata government, Vajpayee earned a reputation for improving relations with Pakistan and China. In 1980, following a split in the Janata Party, Vajpayee helped the BJS to reorganize itself as the BJP. In 1992 he was one of the few Hindu leaders to speak out against the destruction of the historic mosque at Ayodhya by anti-Muslim extremists. Vajpayee was sworn in as prime minister in May 1996 but was in office only 13 days, after failing to attract support from other parties. In early 1998 he again became prime minister, in elections in which the BJP won a record number of seats, but he was forced to make a shaky alliance with regional parties. In 1999 the BJP increased its seats in parliament and consolidated its hold on government. Although considered a pragmatist, Vajpayee assumed a defiant posture in the face of Western criticism of India’s testing of several nuclear weapons in 1998. He had earlier been praised for his conciliatory gestures toward India’s Muslim minority. In 2000 his government began an extensive program of divestment of public funds from several key state-run industries. In 2002 Vajpayee’s government was criticized for its slowness in reacting to riots in Gujarat in which some 1,000 people (primarily Muslims) died. Nevertheless, in 2003 Vajpayee made a concerted effort to resolve India’s long-running feud with Pakistan over the Kashmir region. Under his leadership, India achieved steady economic growth, and the country became a world leader in information technology, though the poorer elements of Indian society often felt left out of the economic prosperity. In 2004 his coalition was defeated in the parliamentary election, and he resigned from office.

Vajpayee announced his retirement from politics at the end of 2005. In late December 2014 he was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour.

Early life

Vajpayee was born into a Hindu Brahmin family on 25 December 1924 in GwaliorMadhya Pradesh. His mother and father were Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee. His father was a school teacher in their home town. His grandfather, Shyam Lal Vajpayee, had migrated to Morena near Gwalior from his ancestral village of Bateshwar in the Agra district of Uttar Pradesh.

Vajpayee did his schooling at the Saraswati Shishu Mandir in Gwalior. In 1934, he was admitted to the Anglo-Vernacular Middle (AVM) School in BarnagarUjjain district, after his father joined as headmaster. He subsequently attended Gwalior’s Victoria College (now Maharani Laxmi Bai Govt. College of Excellence) to study for a BA in Hindi, English and Sanskrit. He completed his post-graduation with an MA in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur.

Independence Movement

His activism started in Gwalior with Arya Kumar Sabha, the youth wing of the Arya Samaj movement, of which he became the general secretary in 1944. He also joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1939 as a swayamsevak, or volunteer. Influenced by Babasaheb Apte, he attended the Officers Training Camp of the RSS during 1940 to 1944, becoming a pracharak (RSS terminology for a full-time worker) in 1947. He gave up studying law due to the partitionriots. He was sent to Uttar Pradesh as a vistarak (a probationary pracharak) and soon began working for the newspapers of Deendayal UpadhyayaRashtradharma (a Hindi monthly), Panchjanya (a Hindi weekly), and the dailies Swadesh and Veer Arjun.

By 1942, at the age of 16 years, Vajpayee became an active member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh(RSS). Although the RSS had chosen not to participate in the Quit India Movement, in August 1942, Vajpayee and his elder brother Prem were arrested for 24 days during the Quit India Movement. He was released after giving a written statement that while he was a part of the crowd, he did not participate in the militant events in Bateshwar on 27 August 1942. Throughout his life, including after he became Prime Minister, Vajpayee has labelled the allegation a false rumour.

Personal Life

Vajpayee remained a bachelor for his entire life. He adopted and raised Namita Bhattacharya as his own child, the daughter of longtime friend Rajkumari Kauland her husband Professor B N Kaul. His adopted family lived with him.

Unlike purist Brahmins who shun meat and alcohol, Vajpayee was known to be fond of whisky and meat. He was a noted poet, writing in Hindi. His published works include Kaidi Kaviraj Ki Kundalian, a collection of poems written when he was imprisoned during the 1975–77 emergency, and Amar aag hai. With regard to his poetry he wrote, “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.

Positions Ruled

YearPositionPlacePartyRemark
1951Founding-MemberBharatiya Jana SanghBharatiya Jana Sangh
1957-62MPBalrampur (Lok Sabha constituency)2nd Lok SabhaBharatiya Jana Sangh1st Term
1957-77LeaderBharatiya Jana Sangh Parliamentary PartyBharatiya Jana Sangh
1962-68MPUttar PradeshRajya SabhaRajya SabhaBharatiya Jana Sangh1st Term (Resigned on 25 February 1967) Elected to Lok Sabha
1966-67ChairmanCommittee on Government AssurancesRajya Sabha
1967MPBalrampur (Lok Sabha constituency)4th Lok SabhaBharatiya Jana Sangh2nd Term
1967-70Chairman,Public Accounts CommitteeBharatiya Jana Sangh
1968-73PresidentBharatiya Jana SanghBharatiya Jana Sangh
1971MPGwalior (Lok Sabha constituency)5th Lok SabhaBharatiya Jana Sangh3rd Term
1977MPNew Delhi (Lok Sabha constituency)6th Lok Sabha (4th term)Janata Party(4th term)
1977-79Union Cabinet Minister,External AffairsJanata Party
1977-80Founding MemberJanata PartyJanata Party
1980MPNew Delhi (Lok Sabha constituency)7th Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party(5th term)
1980-86President,Bharatiya Janata PartyBharatiya Janata Party
1980–84, 1986 and 1993–96LeaderParliamentary PartyBharatiya Janata Party
1986MPMadhya PradeshRajya SabhaRajya SabhaBharatiya Janata Party2nd Term
1988-89Member,General Purposes CommitteeRajya Sabha
1988-90Member,House CommitteeMember, Business Advisory CommitteeRajya Sabha
1990-91Chairman,Committee on PetitionsRajya Sabha
1991MPLucknow (Lok Sabha constituency)10th Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party(6th term)
1991-93Chairman,Public Accounts CommitteeLok Sabha
1993-96Chairman,Committee on External AffairsLok Sabha
1993-96Leader of Opposition,Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party
1996MPLucknow (Lok Sabha constituency)11th Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party7th Term
16 May 1996- 31 May 1996Prime Minister of India; and in charge of other subjects not allocated to any other Cabinet MinisterBharatiya Janata PartyBharatiya Janata Party
1996-97Leader of Opposition,Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party
1997-98Chairman,Committee on External AffairsLok Sabha
1998MPLucknow (Lok Sabha constituency)12th Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party8th Term
1998-99Prime Minister of India; Minister of External Affairs; and also incharge of Ministries/Departments not specifically allocated to the charge of any MinisterBharatiya Janata PartyBharatiya Janata Party
1999MPLucknow (Lok Sabha constituency)13th Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party9th Term
1999Leader,Parliamentary Party, Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party
13 Oct.1999- May 2004Prime Minister of India and also in charge of the Ministries/Departments not specifically allocated to the charge of any MinisterBharatiya Janata PartyBharatiya Janata Party
2004MPLucknow (Lok Sabha constituency)14th Lok SabhaBharatiya Janata Party10th Term
2004Chairman,Parliamentary PartyBharatiya Janata Party &National Democratic Alliance (India)

National Honours

Foreign honours

Political Career

In 1951, Vajpayee was seconded by the RSS, along with Deendayal Upadhyaya, to work for the newly formed Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a Hindu right-wing political party associated with the RSS. He was appointed as a national secretary of the party in charge of the Northern region, based in Delhi. He soon became a follower and aide of party leader Syama Prasad Mukherjee. In the 1957 Indian general election, Vajpayee contested elections to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament. He lost to Raja Mahendra Pratap in Mathura, but was elected from Balrampur. In the Lok Sabha his oratorial skills so impressed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he predicted that Vajpayee would someday become the Prime Minister of India.

Vajpayee’s oratorial skills won him the reputation of being the most eloquent defender of the Jana Sangh’s policies. After the death of Deendayal Upadhyaya, the leadership of the Jana Sangh passed to Vajpayee. He became the national president of the Jana Sangh in 1968, running the party along with Nanaji DeshmukhBalraj Madhok, and L. K. Advani.

BJP (1975–1995)

Foreign Minister Vajpayee (far right) and Prime Minister Morarji Desai(third from right, front row) with US President Jimmy Carter during his 1978 visit to India.

Vajpayee was arrested along with several other opposition leaders during the Internal Emergencyimposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1975. Initially interned in Bangalore, Vajpayee appealed his imprisonment on the grounds of bad health, and was moved to a hospital in Delhi. Gandhi ended the state of emergency in 1977. A coalition of parties, including the BJS, came together to form the Janata Party, which won the 1977 general elections. Morarji Desai, the chosen leader of the alliance, became the prime minister. Vajpayee served as the Minister of External Affairs, or foreign minister, in Desai’s cabinet. As foreign minister, Vajpayee became the first person in 1977 to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi. Under Vajpayee, the BJP moderated the Hindu-nationalist position of the Jana Sangh, emphasising its connection to the Janata Party and expressing support for Gandhian Socialism. The ideological shift did not bring it success: Indira Gandhi’s assassination generated sympathy for the Congress, leading to a massive victory at the polls. The BJP won only two seats in parliament. Vajpayee offered to quit as party president following BJP’s dismal performance in the election, but stayed in the post until 1986. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha in 1986 from Madhya Pradesh, and was briefly the leader of the BJP in Parliament.

Other Achievements

  • In 2012, Vajpayee was ranked number 9 in Outlookmagazine’s poll of The Greatest Indian.
  • In August 2018, Naya Raipur was renamed as Atal Nagar.
  • In October 2018, four Himalayan peaks near Gangotri glacier named after his name.[

Legacy

The administration of Narendra Modi declared in 2014 that Vajpayee’s birthday, 25 December, would be marked as Good Governance Day.

The world’s longest tunnel, Atal Tunnel at RohtangHimachal Pradesh on the Leh-Manali Highway was named after Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

The third longest cable-stayed bridge in India over the Mandovi RiverAtal Setu was named in his memory.

The Government of Chhattisgarh changed the name of Naya Raipur to Atal Nagar.

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