A. B. Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was born to Krishna Devi and Krishna Bihari Vajpayee on 25 December 1924 in a middle-class Brahmin family in Gwalior. He completed his post-graduation with an M.A. in Political Science from DAV College, Kanpur, and was awarded a first-class degree. Vajpayee never married and remained a bachelor his entire life.

Vajpayee’s first exposure to politics was in August 1942, when he and his elder brother Prem were arrested for 23 days during the Quit India movement. In 1957, Vajpayee was elected to the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s Parliament, from Balrampur. There, his oratorial skills so impressed Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru that he predicted that Vajpayee would someday become India’s Prime Minister. By virtue of his oratorical and organizational skills, he became the face of the Jana Sangh. He became the national president of the Jana Sangh in 1968 and, along with Nanaji Deshmukh, Balraj Madhok and Lal Krishna Advani, led the Jana Sangh to national prominence.

Vajpayee joined many of his Bharatiya Jana Sangh and Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh colleagues, particularly his long-time friends Lal Krishna Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1980.He became the BJP’s first President. A parliamentarian for over five decades, Vajpayee was elected to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of India’s Parliament) nine times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha (upper house). He is the only parliamentarian to have been elected from four different states at different times (Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi.)

He served as the 10th Prime Minister of India, in three non-consecutive terms, first for 13 days in 1996, then for 13 months from 1998 to 1999 and then from 1999 to 2004 for a full five year term. 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.

In December 2005, Vajpayee announced his retirement from active politics, declaring that he would not contest in the next general elections. Vajpayee was referred to as the BhishmaPitamah of Indian Politics by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh during one of his speeches in the Rajya Sabha.

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