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Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dies

All Delhi government offices, schools and other institutions shall remain closed tomorrow

Image Credit: AFP
In 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.

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. 

Modi called Vajpayee  'irreplaceable'.

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.

ALSO READ: Vajpayee: Last of India’s statesman-politicians

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.

Interestingly, both Vajpayee and his father enrolled themselves together for law when the former decided to do law and the latter had retired from service. Young Vajpayee felt slightly uncomfortable and requested the professor to transfer him to another section.  The reason he gave was that he had to travel some distance to fetch milk and could not reach class in time. But the father-son duo stayed in the same hostel room for two years. In his nonchalant style, Vajpayee laughed and said, “People used to come from other villages to see us.”

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. On the first day of the Parliament, although happy and apprehensive, he was given a back seat and denied the opportunity to speak due to the party’s strength in the House. Not one to let things pass, he made a suggestion by writing to the Speaker and the leader of the House, Jawaharlal Nehru. His request to pay homage to the martyrs of 1857 before the start of the proceedings was promptly accepted. Steadily, he made his way and excelled in foreign affairs. 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.

Seeing technological revolutions and youngsters hands-on with the latest technology, in the early 2000s, Vajpayee had remarked, “I should have been younger at this stage. These are challenging times.”

He believed in changing with the times and felt modernisation was always for good. But a detached person as far as luxuries were concerned, he is known to have left the office immediately after his 13-month government fell. When an aide remarked, “What is the protocol?”, Vajpayee retorted, “What protocol? Let’s pack the bags and leave.”

- with inputs from agencies

India mourns the loss of its former PM

Tributes poured in from all quarters as the country mourned the three-time office stalwart. Here's a look at some reactions on Twitter.

 Former President of India Pranab Mukherjee on Thursday expressed his "deepest condolences" on the death of Vajpayee at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.

Calling Vajpayee a "reasoned critique" and a "democrat", Mukherjee said on Twitter that India has lost a great son.

The current President of the country, Ram Nath Kovind, also tweeted that he will be missed by 'one and all'.

India's three-time prime minister Vajpayee: key dates
December 25, 1924: Born in Gwalior, in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.
1942: Brief spell in prison for anti-British activities.
1957: Enters Indian Parliament for the first time.
1975-1977: Imprisoned for two years for opposing the state of emergency declared by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
March 1977: Minister of Foreign Affairs until July 1979.
April 1980: Co-founds the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
May 16, 1996: Becomes prime minister for the first time, lasting 13 days. March 19, 1998: Prime minister for the second time.
May 1998: Organises nuclear tests in the Rajasthan desert.
October 10, 1999: Wins third mandate to serve as prime minister. February 1999: Travels by bus to Lahore in Pakistan to meet his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
May 2004: Suffers shock election defeat, replaced by Manmohan Singh. 2009: Ends political career for health reasons.
August 16, 2018: Dies in New Delhi at the age of 93. -AFP
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