New Delhi: Atal Bihari Vajapyee, Former Prime Minister of India and Hindutva icon who led the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) from just 02 seats in 1984 to victory in 1996 General Election, died today on Thursday August 16, 2108 at All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS) New Delhi. He was 93.
"“It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of former prime minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee at 5.05 pm on 16.08.2018", AIIMS said in a statement issued for general public.
"Shri Vajpayee was admitted in AIIMS on 11.06.2018 and was stable in the last 9 weeks under the care of a team of AIIMS doctors. Unfortunately his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems. Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today. We join the Nation in deeply mourning this great loss", the statement said.
Vajpayee's condition deteriorated on Wednesday when the nation celebrated the 72nd Indpendence Day. A host of leaders including Prime Minister Modi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Rajnath Singh, AAP Chief Arvind Kejriwal and others visited the ailing Vajpayee in the hospital.
Vajpayee had largely been confined to his home on Krishna Menon Marg in the heart of Delhi, away from public life since 2009 due to his failing health. He was considered the gold standard of leadership in the BJP and had admirers even among rival parties.
Born in 1924 in Gwalior, Vajpayee became the first non-Congress Prime Minister to serve a full five-year term. He was first exposed to the political sphere during the Quit India movement in 1942. Within five years since then, he became a full-time RSS Pracharak and, due to his oratory skills, he soon became the face of the Jana Sangh (which is today known as the BJP).
Vajpayee was arrested between 1975 to 1977 during the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1977, Vajpayee became the external affairs minister in former PM Moraji Desai’s Cabinet. Even in those days, he was the party’s star speaker.
Vajpayee, whose parliamentary experience spanned over four decades, had been a Member of Parliament since 1957. He was elected to the Lok Sabha ten times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha. He first became Prime Minister in 1996. But, his first stint lasted only for 16 days (from May 16-31, 1996). He became Prime Minister again from March 19, 1998 to May 13, 2004.
During his tenure, Gujarat witnessed worst ever anti-Muslim riots in February 2002. Sources close to him said, he had almost made up his mind to dissmiss the state government in Gujarat, then headed by Narendra Modi. However, it was LK Advani who persuaded him not to do so.
Later on he courted a controversy by equating Islam with violence. "In Indonesia, Malaysia, wherever Muslims are living they don't want to live in harmony," he told party workers in Goa barely a month after he wanted to dismiss Modi government in Gujarat.
He was considered among the political circles as moderate. However his success in politics and rise to the national politics were by and large the result of the communal and divisive politics that his party BJP stands for.
Yet, Vajpayee was a strong proponent of strong ties with Pakistan. He had almost struck a peace deal with Pervez Musharraf, former President of Pakistan, in Agra in 2001. However, reports at that time revealed, LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, rushed to Agra and stopped him from siging the peace deal.
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