India’s most respected national leader, orator and poet Atal Bihari Vajpayee has died. The announcement was made by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences(AIIMS) where the 93-year-old had been under treatment for nine weeks after a prolonged illness.
“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,” the hospital said in a press release.
Vajpayee, the three term-prime minister, was admitted to the hospital on June 11 following urinary tract infection and chest congestion.
Vajpayee was conferred Bharat Ratna in 2015. Described as Bhisma Pitamaha of Indian Politics by ex-Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, Vajpayee was Prime Minister of India three times during BJP led NDA regime – for 13 days in 1996, then 11 months from 1998 to 1999 and later a full term from 1998 to 2004. He was the first non-Congress politician to have served a full term as prime minister.
Mourning the demise of Vajpayee President Ramanth Kovind said country lost a great statesman
Extremely sad to hear of the passing of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, our former Prime Minister and a true Indian statesman. His leadership, foresight, maturity and eloquence put him in a league of his own. Atalji, the Gentle Giant, will be missed by one and all #PresidentKovind
— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) August 16, 2018
PM Modi says it was a personal loss
Condoling the death of Vajpayee,Prime Minister said the death of Vajpayee marked the end of an era. It was a personal loss he said in a tweet
Atal Ji’s passing away is a personal and irreplaceable loss for me. I have countless fond memories with him. He was an inspiration to Karyakartas like me. I will particularly remember his sharp intellect and outstanding wit.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 16, 2018
It was due to the perseverance and struggles of Atal Ji that the BJP was built brick by brick. He travelled across the length and breadth of India to spread the BJP’s message, which led to the BJP becoming a strong force in our national polity and in several states.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) August 16, 2018
Congress President Rahul Gandhi described Vajpayee as great son of India.
Today India lost a great son. Former PM, Atal Bihari Vajpayee ji, was loved and respected by millions. My condolences to his family & all his admirers. We will miss him. #AtalBihariVajpayee
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) August 16, 2018
Earlier, as news of deterioration of his health spread, national leaders, including Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP brass — party President Amit Shah, veterans L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, and Home Minister Rajnath Singh, cabinet ministers, chief ministers and opposition leaders Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee visited the hospital during the day.
The body was taken to Vajpayee’s house on Krishna Menon Marg in Lutyen’s Delhi for the public to pay last respects to the departed leader.
The former Prime Minister, whose birthday on December 25 is celebrated as Good Governance Day, was honoured with the Bharat Ratna in 2014 at his home.
Vajpayee, whose more than six-year term was marked by peace initiative with Pakistan and the 1998 Pokhran nuclear test that invited US sanctions, was a bachelor and leaves behind a foster family.
Though his long-time associate L.K. Advani, credited for the rise of the BJP from the last 1980s on the Ayodhya temple issue with his hardline politics, it was Vajpayee’s moderate stance that took the party close to power.
He was the Prime Minister for 13 days in mid-1996 at the head of the first short-lived BJP government. He was forced to resign ahead of the confidence vote as he failed to muster the numbers.
However, Vajpayee again became the Prime Minister in March 1998 with improved numbers and new allies like the TDP, the AIADMK, the National Conference and the Samta Party.
But his government fell 13 months later on the floor of the Lok Sabha losing by one vote in the confidence motion after AIADMK headed by the late J.Jayalalithaa withdrew support to the BJP.
The BJP government headed by Vajpayee returned to power in 1999 and completed almost its full term till 2004 when the party lost in the polls called earlier than scheduled.
Vajpayee was known for his lavish praise of Indira Gandhi as Durga on India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war of Bangladesh independence.
He had a flair for foreign policy issues and the then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao chose him to lead an Indian delegation to the UN Human Rights conference to counter Pakistan’s campaign for Kashmir.
Vajpayee had a long association with the RSS and the Bhartiya Jana Sangh which merged to form the Janata Party in the post Emergency period when he was jailed along with numerous opposition leaders.
And in 1980, he, Advani, Joshi and other leaders founded the BJP of which he was the first President.