After a 9-week long struggle, India's former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away at AIIMS in New Delhi today. The 93-year old political icon was suffering from kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection and even respiratory problems.
In 2009, he suffered a stroke leading to loss of speech and subsequently causing dementia. Vajpayee was a monumental figure in both BJP and India's political landscape. He was the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete his five-year term.
Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born on December 25, 1924 to a schoolmaster from Gwalior. In 2014, the NDA government declared his birthday would be observed as the Good Governance Day.
His political life started early when as a teenager he was jailed briefly for opposing British colonial rule. In 1939, he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and became a full member in 1947. However, before that he did try his hand at communism.
He dropped out of law school to run an RSS magazine in the early 1950s. In 1951, he was drafted, along with Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, to work with the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the predecessor of BJP. Vajpayee rose swiftly up the ranks and gradually, he grew as the moderate voice of the RSS and BJP.
Vajpayee became a close aide of Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) founder Shyama Prasad Mookerjee and was by his side when he went on a fast-unto-death in Kashmir in 1953 to protest against the system of carrying a permit to enter the state and the "inferior" treatment of Indian citizens. Both protested against the special treatment accorded to Kashmir because it had a Muslim majority. The incident was a turning point in Vajpayee's political career.
Vajpayee served the Lok Sabha for 10 terms that began in 1957 and concluded in 2009. He was first elected through the Bharatiya Jana Sangh. In total, he was elected thrice from Bharatiya Jana Sangh. In 1977, he was elected from the Janata Party.
Following Janata Party's victory in the 1977 general elections, he became the Minister of External Affairs in Morarji Desai's cabinet. As foreign minister, Vajpayee became the first person to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi. Because of his charisma, wit and oratorical skills, he won popularity and respect from all political leaders.
In 1980, Vajpayee along with his Bharatiya Jana Sangh and RSS colleagues, such as L K Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, formed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He was the first party president and was instrumental in bringing about a strong opposition against the Congress (R) government.
He first became India's Prime Minister in the year 1996. However, he couldn't retain the same for more than 13 days due to lack of numbers.
He came back to the same position in 1998 but couldn't carry on with it for more than 13 months due to lack of a stable majority.
Vajpayee was re-elected in 1999 with a more stable coalition. This was the first time a non-Congress member held the PMO for a complete term of five years.
Manmohan Singh succeeded him as the Prime Minister in 2004. Vajpayee served as a Lok Sabha till the year 2009. But after the stroke in 2009, his health conditions did not allow him to continue.