Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Statesman-Journalist-Poet, Former Prime Minister of India, Passes Away at 93

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A parliamentarian for 47 years, a three-time Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, passed away this evening (Aug 16), at AIIMS, New Delhi. A report by Arindam, for Different Truths.

A tall statesman of modern India, former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, passed away at AIIMS, New Delhi, at 5:05 PM, on Thursday (Aug 16). The former Prime Minister was suffering from kidney tract infection and chest congestion. He was 93-year old.

Vajpayee was open, inclusive, had a great sense of humour and was respected by one and all, across political spectrum in this country. The Nehruvian influence on him was palpable, state political pundits.  

“He was a leader, orator, journalist, statesman and more than anything a true son of India. An era has ended. His death is an irreparable loss for the nation. For me personally, it’s like losing a father,” PM Narendra Modi said, addressing the nation. Modi rued that India has lost its ‘anmol ratna’. “We are at a loss of words,” he added.

“The country has lost the pole star of its politics,” stated Amit Shah, the president of BJP, on the former PM Vajpayee’s demise, while addressing the media.

Vajpayee became a member of the parliament, for the first time, when he was elected to the Rajya Sabha. Just nine years later he won an election and was elected to the Lok Sabha seven times. He ruled the country for 13 days in 1996, 13 months in 1998 and for almost six years from 1999.

A parliamentarian for 47 years, Vajpayee captivated the nation with his wit and oratory. A three-time Prime Minister, he was the first non-Congress PM, who completed his full-term.

Vajpayee retired from public life due to frail health.

He was one of the most popular politicians of modern India, respected by the political leaders cutting across party lines. They paid soulful tributes to the departed leader.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s mortal remains will be kept at his home for paying last tributes between 7.30am and 8.30am tomorrow morning, and then will be taken to the BJP headquarters at 9am, said Amit Shah.  Vajpayee will be cremated at Delhi’s Smriti Sthal, on Friday (Aug 17).

In his youth, he was influenced by Marxism. LK Advani said that Vajpayee was reluctant to launch BJP. He had a magnetic charisma.

Interestingly, Vajpayee was the first leader of opposition who was asked by the then PM Narsimha Rao to lead a foreign delegation to Geneva. Salman Khurshid, who was the Minister of State for External Affairs, was the No. 2 person in that delegation.

Fact File of Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Key dates in the life of India’s three-time Prime Minister Vajpayee, according to news agency AFP:

  • December 25, 1924: Born in Gwalior, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
  • 1942: Brief spell in prison for anti-British activities.
  • 1957: Enters Indian Parliament for the first time.
  • 1975-1977: Imprisoned for two years for opposing the state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
  • March 1977: Minister of Foreign Affairs until July 1979.
  • April 1980: Co-founds the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • May 16, 1996: Becomes prime minister for the first time, lasting 13 days.
  • March 19, 1998: Prime minister for the second time.
  • May 1998: Organises nuclear tests in the Rajasthan desert.
  • October 10, 1999: Wins third mandate to serve as prime minister.
  • February 1999: Travels by bus to Lahore in Pakistan to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
  • May 2004: Suffers shock election defeat, replaced by Manmohan Singh.
  • 2009: Ends political career for health reasons.
  • August 16, 2018: Dies in New Delhi at the age of 93.

©Arindam Roy

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Arindam Roy has 37 years experience in various newsrooms. He was the Managing Editor of a reputed Gurgaon-based Citizen Journalist portal and has held senior positions in several publications. As Correspondent and Bureau Chief, he has written extensively for Associated Press, Times of India, Hindustan Times and multiple news outlets. He has contributed 13 chapters to various publications. Of these, seven chapters were published in two Coffee Table Books, published by the Times Group. He is a co-author of a novel, Rivers Run Back that he penned with Joyce Yarrow. The novel was launched at the American Centre, New Delhi, on January 2015. He lives in Allahabad.