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Atal Bihari Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee born December 25, 1924 was the Prime Minister of India, briefly in 1996, and again from October 13, 1998 until May 19, 2004. He retired from active politics in December 2005, but still comments and participates on national debates of policy, welfare and defence. He is a senior leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Hindu Nationalism in Indian politics. He has served as a member of the Parliament of India for nearly 50 years. He is also a poet, writing in his native language, Hindi.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a native of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and has been active in Indian politics throughout his adult life (as a member of parliament, he has often resided in Delhi). He holds a masters degree in political science and was educated at the Victoria College, Gwalior and DAV College, Kanpur. He is also a poet and writer, and has published several volumes of poetry, essays and speeches. He has been described as a follower of the guru Sathya Sai Baba. Vajpayee is a bachelor and has the adopted daughters of Mr. and Mrs. B. N. Kaul, Nandita (Nanni) and Namita (Gunu). Vajpayee`s involvement in politics began as a freedom-fighter during the Quit India Movement of 1942-1945, initially adhering to Communism, but shedding that for membership in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, an organization propounding Hindutva, or Hindu Nationalism and considered Right-Wing in Indian politics.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, along with many BJS and RSS colleagues, particularly his long-time and close friend Lal Krishna Advani, formed the Bharatiya Janata Party in 1980 as the new home of Hindutva, right-wing social and economic ideas and nationalism. Vajpayee became its founding President. In 1974, when Prime Minister Gandhi imposed a national state of emergency, the RSS and BJS joined a wide-array of parties in opposing the suspension of elections and civil liberties. Vajpayee was briefly jailed during that period.

Achievements as the Prime Minister
Political energy and expansion made BJP the single-largest political party in the Lok Sabha elected in 1996. Mired down by corruption scandals, the Congress was at a historic low, and a vast medley of regional parties and break-off factions dominated the Parliament. BJP formed the government, Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as prime minister, but the BJP failed to gather enough support from other parties to form a majority. Vajpayee resigned after just 13 days, when it became clear that he could not garner a majority. After a third-party coalition governed India between 1996 and 1998, the terribly divided Parliament was dissolved and fresh elections held. These elections again put the BJP at the head. This time, a cohesive bloc of political parties lined up with it to form the National Democratic Alliance, and A.B. Vajpayee was sworn in as the prime minister on 13th October 1998.

The NDA proved its 286 vote majority in a narrow vote of confidence. Towards the end of 1998 however, the AIADMK under J.Jayalalitha withdrew its support from the 13-month old government. The government lost the ensuing vote of confidence motion by a single vote. As the opposition was unable to come up with the numbers to form the new government, the country returned to elections with Vajpayee remaining the “care-taker prime minister”. After the election in 1999, Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister for the third time. The coalition government that was formed lasted its full term of 5 years the only non-Congress government to do so.

In late 1998 and early 1999, Vajpayee began a push for a full-scale diplomatic peace process with Pakistan. With the historic inauguration of the Delhi-Lahore bus service in February 1999, Vajpayee initiated a new peace process aimed towards permanently resolving the Kashmir dispute and other territorial/nuclear/strategic conflicts with Pakistan. The resultant Lahore Declaration espoused a commitment to dialogue, expanded trade relations and the goal of denuclearized South Asia, and mutual friendship. This eased the tension created by the 1998 nuclear tests, not only within the two nations, but also in South Asia and the rest of the world.

Vajpayee promoted pro-business, free market reforms to reinvigorate India`s economic transformation and expansion. Increased competitiveness, extra funding and support for the information technology and high-tech industries, improvements in infrastructure, deregulation of trade, investments and corporate laws, all increased foreign capital investment and set in motion an economic expansion. The Kargil War also took place in Vajpayee`s tenure.

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