Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dies

n this photograph taken on March 6, 2004, Indian Prime Minister Atal Beharai Vajpayee sits at his residence in New Delhi. India on December 24, 2014 conferred its highest civilian honour on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is credited with bringing about a thaw in relations with Pakistan. (AFP image)

New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee died at a New Delhi hospital on Thursday. He was 93 years old.

The Central Government has announced a seven-day mourning period throughout India.

The former prime minister was admitted to the AIIMS hospital on June 11 with a kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection, low urine output and chest congestion.

The funeral will be held tomorrow at Smriti Sthal. A half-day holiday in all Central government offices and CPSUs across the country as well as Delhi government offices has been declared.

For now, his body has been taken to his home.

His body is to be kept at BJP headquarters in New Delhi tomorrow, for final tributes.

Punjab has also declared a state of mourning.

Earlier in the day, a stream of party leaders headed to the hospital to enquire about his health, which had been critical for nearly 24 hours.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a series of tweets expressed his grief at Vajpayee’s passing.

Vajpayee was one of India’s most admired politicians. There was no secret behind this mass appeal. It was just that he was simple, straightforward and honest.

If his inimitable oratory, repartee and ready wit tugged at the hearts of the masses, his patience and width of vision influenced the minds of many a head of the state. Whether it was international affairs or matters of national interest, Vajpayee spoke with authority. And he spoke without mincing his words, especially where criticism was due. In recognition to his services to the country, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1992 and the Best Parliamentarian Award in 1994.

A bachelor, Vajpayee had during the India-Pakistan partition in 1947, taken a vow not to get married. And he said time and again that he never regretted the decision. Sensitive at heart, he was never attracted to the materialistic. His ambition was that people spoke well of him.

A skilled parliamentarian and statesman, he was born on December 25, 1925. Son of a poet and writer Krishna Bihari Vajpayee, his grandfather Shyam Lal Vajpayee was a Sanskrit scholar and poet. Vajpayee grew up in Gwalior and later moved to Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, to do his Masters in political science from Kanpur University.

He became a member of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and when the organisation decided to launch a monthly journal, he was asked to edit it. Simultaneously, he edited Panchjanya, the RSS mouthpiece and the daily Swadesh. As the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi witnessed a ban on RSS, Vajpayee went to Kashi and started editing a journal named Chetna. In 1953, he was posted to Delhi as the editor of a daily newspaper Veer Arjun.

As a journalist, he accompanied Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, founder of the RSS, to Kashmir, where Mukherjee offered satyagraha and was arrested and imprisoned. Vajpayee was told to go back to Delhi. He quit journalism and plunged headlong into politics.

Vajpayee was first elected to Parliament in 1957 from Balrampur in Uttar Pradesh.

He was a Lok sabha MP from 1967-1984 and later a member of the Rajya Sabha.

His first stint as Prime Minister in 1977 lasted for 13 days. Subsequent elections saw him as Prime Minister again. This time the term lasted 13 months. The results of the 13th Lok Sabha elections in 1999, finally made him take oath of office for the third time.

Vajpayee was fond of poetry. He first wrote poetry when he was in Grade 9.  He had a few books in Hindi to his credit including Amar Aag Hai and Meri Ekavan Kavitayein. (Excerpts from Gulf News India)



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