Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born on December 25, 1924, to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee in Uttar Pradesh. His father was a poet and a schoolmaster. Vajpayee did his schooling and graduation in Gwalior. Atal Bihari Vajpayee completed his Masters in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur. All pictures/mid-day archives.
As an 18-year-old, Atal Bihari Vajpayee participated in the 1942 Quit India Movement and was arrested and kept in jail for 23 days.
In 1939, Atal Bihari Vajpayee joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a swayamsevak. He was greatly influenced by Babasaheb Apte. Atal Bihari Vajpayee became 'full-time pracharak' in 1947.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee's political activism started with Arya Kumar Sabha of Gwalior, the youth wing of the Arya Samaj. He became the general secretary of the Samaj in 1944.
By virtue of his oratorical and organisational skills, he became the face of the Jana Sangh. After the death of Deendayal Upadhyaya, the mantle of its leadership fell on his shoulders and he became its national president in 1968. Along with Nanaji Deshmukh, Balraj Madhok and L K Advani, Vajpayee led the Jana Sangh to national prominence.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was among the founding members of the erstwhile Bharatiya Jana Sangh which he also headed from 1968 to 1972. After the Janata party came to power after winning the 1977 general elections, Vajpayee became the Minister of External Affairs in Prime Minister Morarji Desai's cabinet.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee earned much fame as India's external affairs minister in Morarji Desai's government with his famous speeches, including the widely acclaimed speech in Hindi at the United National General Assembly in New York.
During the Emergency period imposed by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi from 1975 to 1977, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was arrested along with several other opposition leaders.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as the Prime Minister of India for three terms between 1996 and 2004.
In picture: Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray at Matoshree in Mumbai. Pic/Prashant Nakure.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee first became the Prime Minister in 1996 after four decades in the opposition. His tenure lasted just 13 days due to lack of numbers. His second stint as PM in 1998 was over after 13 months in power; Vajpayee's government collapsed after AIADMK under J Jayalalithaa withdrew her support from the coalition. Vajpayee came back strongly in his third tenure in October 1999. The coalition government that was formed lasted its full term of 5 years, becoming the first non-Congress government to do so.
While his six years in office from 1998 to 2004 were defined by crisis, he also left a mark with peace initiatives and infrastructural projects, including the Golden Quadrilateral Highway network, connecting India's four major metropolises with 5,846 kilometres of roads
In picture: Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Bal Thackeray at an event in Mumbai.
During Atal Bihari Vajpayee's prime ministerial tenure, a national crisis took place in December 1999, when an Indian Airlines flight (IC 814 from Nepal) was hijacked by Pakistani terrorists and flown to Taliban ruled Afghanistan. The hijackers demanded the release of terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar, who was lodged in an Indian prison. Eventually, the Vajpayee government decided to release Azhar in exchange for the passengers.
In picture: Jayalalithaa with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K Advani.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee always stressed about good relations with neighbouring countries. He began a push for a full-scale diplomatic peace process with Pakistan by starting the Delhi-Lahore bus service in February 1999. This led to the easing of tensions and subsequently Lahore Declaration was signed between the two countries easing trade relations.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was described as someone who likes good things of life, including well-cooked meat dish and a couple of sundowners. In an interview, when he was asked about his fondness for good liquor, he said, "You know politics is all about shor-sharaba (hullabaloo). And at the end of a day full of shor (noise), the evening needs some sharaba (liquor)," he had replied.
In the same interview, he had said that the demolition of Babri Masjid in December 1992 had hurt him as much as it did the nation. Vajpayee was reproachful in his silence while the rest of his colleagues were extolling the virtues of the act.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee spoke about his disillusionment with politics in another interview. However, every time he seemed set to leave the party, he stayed on. He once wondered aloud, "Jayen to Jayen Kaha."
Atal Bihari Vajpayee's health started deteriorating in late 2000. He underwent a knee replacement surgery in 2001. In 2009 he suffered a stroke, which impaired his speech.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was known for his oratory skills with well-timed wit, and carefully-chosen words delivered with trademark long pauses. He gave some memorable quotes during his political career.
"No state should be allowed to profess partnership with the global coalition against terror while continuing to aid, abet and sponsor terrorism," was a famous quote of Vajpayee
In picture: Chhagan Bhujbal, Vilasrao Deshmukh with Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
What separated Vajpayee from other orators was his sensitive side, where his penchant for poetry shone through.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee honed his poetry skills by attending mushairas. He wrote and published many poems in Hindi.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee also gave Hindi a boost at international platforms. He was the first external affairs minister to deliver a speech in Hindi at the UN General Assembly in the USA.
In picture: Atal Bihari Vajpayee with Lata Mangeshkar at an event in Mumbai.
Vajpayee can be credited for making India a global nuclear power. He was strongly supportive of nuclear power and had great respect for scientists in general.
In Picture: Atal Bihari Vajpayee at a condolence meeting to pay homage to late H Advani at K.C College in Mumbai.
In 2015, Bangladesh honoured Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his outstanding support for the country's independence from Pakistan in 1971 when he was a Lok Sabha member. Bangladesh decided to honour the 1971 "foreign friends" soon after the ruling Awami League was elected to power in 2008.
In picture: Atal Bihari Vajpayee with then Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at an event in New Delhi. The photo was taken in 1998.
In 2015, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was conferred a honorary D.Litt degree by Madhya Pradesh Bhoj (Open) University for his contribution in the fields of politics, education, literature and social life among others.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee honoured all faiths and believed in respect of all regions.
In Picture: Nobel Laureate Mother Teresa meets Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New Delhi in May 1996, when he was the prime minister.
Vajpayee could converse in flawless Marathi (the only other PM who could do that was Narasimha Rao), thanks to his Nagpur connection, and his long association with Gwalior, which had a significant population of Maharashtrian people
In Picture: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee watering a tree planted by him at the Samadhi of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam during his visit to Mauritius on March 11, 2000. Photo by Kanchan Dey
Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh until 2009 when he retired from active politics due to health issues.
In picture: Atal Bihari Vajpayee at August Kranti Maidan.
A romantic at heart, Vajpayee along with his poetry writing was also a connoisseur of good food.
In Picture: P.V Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee share a light moment at a book release function at an event in New Delhi in 1995.
He remained a member of Parliament for 47 years -- elected 10 times to the Lok Sabha and twice to Rajya Sabha.
In Picture: The then Director General of Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) R. K Sharma presented a cheque of Rs 1 crore to the Prime Minister's Relief Fund in New Delhi on November 4, 1998.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee never married. He said he wanted to remain a bachelor because he wanted to devote himself to politics. He had an adopted daughter named Namita Bhattacharya.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee loved nature and one of his favourite retreats was Manali in Himachal Pradesh.
In Picture: The then Deputy CM of Maharashtra Gopinath Munde, former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Lal Krishna Advani at a meeting at Santacruz airport after arriving in Mumbai for a three-day conclave at Virar in January 1997.
Vajpayee was always considered an honest man, statesman, able administrator and above all a patriot. During his tenure as prime minister, his personal integrity was never seriously questioned but arms bribery scandals exposed corruption in his government and at times cast doubts on his judgment.
In Picture: Atal Bihari Vajpayee with on Rajat Sharma popular show 'Aap ki Adalat'.
Vajpayee's signature in politics was achieving pragmatic consensus, and in this process, he earned the respect of his party, allies and opponents.
As a national leader, he put back India on the international map through his effective diplomacy and shaped the country's economy in the new millennium. A charismatic leader, a gentleman, Atal Bihari Vajpayee's legacy will be tough to match. Vajpayee is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya.
It is former Prime Minister and BJP patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birth anniversary today. Vajpayee was a statesman, an orator, a poet, and a man of peace and conviction. Here's a look at the life of Atal Bihari Vajpayee in pictures
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