Former Prime Minister and BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born in a middle-class family to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee on 25 December 1924 in Gwalior (Madhya Pradesh).
Vajpayee completed his schooling from the Saraswati Shishu Mandir, Gwalior. He did his graduation from the Victoria College, Gwalior – now Laxmi Bai College and completed his post-graduation in Political Science from Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College, Kanpur.
As a freedom fighter and his entry into politics
Vajpayee joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1939. Working with RSS was his first experience in politics.
In 1942, he and his elder brother got arrested for 23 days during the Quit India Movement.
In 1947, Vajpayee became a ‘Pracharak’, a full-time RSS worker but within a year RSS was banned for its alleged role in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1951, Vajpayee joined the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a Hindu right-wing political party associated with the RSS under the leadership of Shyam Prasad Mukherjee and became its national secretary and in-charge of the Northern region.
Vajpayee came into prominence with his oratorical and leadership skills, he became the face of the Jana Sangh. And soon after the death of Deendayal Upadhyaya in 1968, he became the national president of the Bhartiya Jana Sangh.
As a member of parliament
Served as a Member of Parliament for around five decades. Was elected 10 times to Lok Sabha beginning with 1957, representing six different constituencies.
Vajpayee fought his first election in 1957 where he lost to Raja Mahendra Pratap in Mathura but won from Balrampur constituency in Uttar Pradesh and was elected to the second Lok Sabha. Post this, he had four more terms as a member of parliament till 1984, but he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha elections to Madhavrao Scindia from Gwalior.
In 1986 he became the member of the Rajya Sabha and was again elected in the 10th Lok Sabha in 1991 from Lukhnow constituency and represented the same constituency till 2009.
As a cabinet minister
During 1977-79 Vajpayee served as the minister of external affairs in the Janata Party government under Morarji Desai as PM. During this tenure, Vajpayee became the first person to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi. This tenure also helped him to establish himself as a respected political leader.
As Prime Minister of India
Vajpayee was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of India following the 1996 General Elections, where the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. But his first tenure as PM could only last for 13 days as the government could not gather support from other parties to obtain a majority. In the following election, the BJP again emerged as the single-largest party but was able to assemble a governing coalition called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), but the alliance could only survive for 13 months as the government lost the no-confidence motion by just one vote.
His third-term as Prime Minister came in 1999, where the BJP-led NDA won the majority seats in the Lok Sabha and Vajpayee became the first non-congress Prime Minister to complete a full-term as Prime Minister.
Major policy and economic reforms by Vajpayee as PM:
As a poet and an author
Vajpayee was also a renowned poet and an author. He has authored more than 20 books including six books on his poetry collections. One collection – ‘Kya Khoya Kya Paaya’, was converted into a music album named ‘Samvedna’. Poems written by Vajpayee were composed and sung by Jagjit Singh.
Vajpayee was awarded Padma Vibhushan in 1992, and he received Bharat Ratna in 2015, the highest civilian award in India.
First Published: IST