A man of the masses, firm in his political convictions. On October 13, 1999, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee took charge as Prime Minister of India for the third term at the head of a new coalition government, the National Democratic Alliance. He was Prime Minister for a short period in 1996 and between 1998-99. He is the first Prime Minister since Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to have become Prime Minister of India with two successive mandates.
A veteran Parliamentarian whose career stretches over four decades, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been elected to the Lok Sabha (House of the People) nine times and to the Rajya Sabha (House of the States) twice, a record by itself.
As India’s Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Chairperson of various important Standing Committees of Parliament and Leader of the Opposition, he has been an active participant in shaping India’s post-Independence domestic and foreign policy.
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s first brush with nationalist politics was in his student days, when he joined the Quit India Movement of 1942 which hastened the end of British colonial rule. A student of political science and law, it was in college that he developed a keen interest in foreign affairs – an interest he has nourished over the years and put to skilful use while representing India at various multilateral and bilateral fora.
Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee had embarked upon a journalist’s career, which was cut short in 1951 when he joined the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the fore-runner of today’s Bharatiya Janata Party, the leading component of the National Democratic Alliance. A critically acclaimed poet, he still takes time off from affairs of state of indulge in music and in a bit of gourmet cooking.
Born in the family of a humble school teacher on December 25 1924, in the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior (now a part of the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh), Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rise in public life is a tribute to both his political acumen and Indian democracy. Over the decades, he has emerged as a leader who commands respect for his liberal worldview and commitment to democratic ideals.
An ardent champion of women’s empowerment and social equality, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee believes in a forward-looking, forward moving India, a strong and prosperous nation confident of its rightful place in the comity of nations. He stands for an India anchored in 5000 years of civilization history, ever modernizing, ever renewing, ever re-energising itself to meet the challenges of the next 1000 years.
India’s second highest civilian honour, the Padma Vibhushan, was conferred upon him in recognition of his selfless dedication to his first and only love, India, and his more than half-a-century of service to society and the nation. In 1994, he was named India’s ‘Best Parliamentarian.’ The citation read: “True to his name, Atalji is an eminent national leader, an erudite politician, a selfless social worker, forceful orator, poet and litterateur, journalist and indeed a multi-faceted personality..Atalji articulates the aspirations of the masses.. his works ever echo total commitment to nationalism.
As Prime Minister of India, Vajpayee served as the Prime Minister of India between 1996 and 2004 in three non-consecutive terms.
First term: May 1996
The BJP grew in strength in the early 1995 riding on pro-nationalistic sentiments. In the 1996 general elections, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha. The then president Shankar Dayal Sharma invited Vajpayee to form the government. Vajpayee was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of India, but the BJP failed to muster enough support from other parties to obtain a majority. He resigned after 13 days, when it became clear that he could not garner a majority.
Second term: 1998–1999
After the fall of the two United Front governments between 1996 and 1998, the Lok Sabha was dissolved and fresh elections were held. The 1998 general elections again put the BJP ahead of others. This time, a cohesive bloc of political parties joined the BJP to form the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and Vajpayee was sworn in as the Prime Minister on 19 March 1998.
The NDA proved its majority in the parliament. The government lasted 13 months until mid-1999 when the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) under Jayalalithaa withdrew its support to the government. The government lost the ensuing vote of confidence motion in the Lok Sabha by a single vote on 17 April 1999. As the Opposition was unable to come up with the numbers to form the new government, the Lok Sabha was again dissolved and fresh elections were held. Vajpayee remaining the Prime Minister until the elections were held.
Third term: 1999–2004
In the 1999 general elections, the BJP-led NDA won 303 seats out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, in the aftermath of the Kargil operations, thereby securing a comfortable and stable majority. On 13 October 1999, Atal Bihari Vajpayee took oath as Prime Minister of India for the third time.