Former Prime Minister and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee died on Thursday, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences said. He was admitted to Delhi’s AIIMS in June. He was 93.
Vajpayee will be accorded a state funeral and the government announced a seven-day state mourning across the country, reported ANI. During this period, the national flag will be flown at half-mast where it is regularly flown. The Bihar government too announced seven days of state mourning and a public holiday on Friday.
In Punjab, all government offices, boards, educational institutions and corporations will remain closed on Friday as a mark of respect. While the Punjab government declared a three-day mournining, Jharkhand government declared seven-day mourning in the state. Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said all government offices, schools and institutions will remain closed on Friday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Vajpayee’s former deputy LK Advani, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, JP Nadda, Piyush Goyal and Smriti Irani, BJP President Amit Shah, and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal have visited AIIMS over the last two days to enquire about Vajpayee’s health.
The former prime minister was admitted to the facility in June with a urinary tract infection, a lower respiratory tract infection and kidney-related ailments but the hospital had said days later that he was recovering.
The BJP veteran was a diabetic and had one functional kidney. He had suffered a stroke in 2009, which reportedly weakened his cognitive abilities, following which he developed dementia.
Vajpayee was the prime minister between 1998 and 2004 when the National Democratic Alliance government was in power. The government conferred the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour, on him in 2015.
Instrumental in the BJP’s rise
Vajpayee, who helped found the BJP after the Jana Sangh was dissolved, was considered instrumental in the party’s rise to prominence. He entered politics in the 1950s, and was the first prime minister not from the Congress to serve a full five-year term. He was elected to the Lok Sabha nine times and the Rajya Sabha two times.
During his time as prime minister, Vajpayee was faced with the Kargil war, the Kandahar Indian Airlines hijack in December 1999, and the attack on Parliament in 2001. His government had enacted a Prevention of Terrorism Act soon after, which was later repealed by the Congress government. In 1998, when he was in power for a month, Vajpayee had conducted five underground nuclear tests in Pokhran, Rajasthan. He had also pushed for peace with Pakistan during his time.
Vajpayee was awarded the Padma Vibhushan in 1992. Besides politics, he was known to love poetry and the written word and was a very eloquent speaker. Several of his works have been published.