NEW DELHI: Former Prime Minister and stalwart of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Atal Bihari Vajpayee, turned 93 on Monday.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi wished Vajpayee on his birthday, and prayed for his good health.
“Birthday greetings to our beloved Atal Ji. His phenomenal as well as visionary leadership made India more developed and further raised our prestige at the world stage. I pray for his good health,” he tweeted.
President Ram Nath Kovind wrote on Twitter: “Birthday wishes to our much-loved and respected former Prime Minister, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.”
Vajpayee’s birthday will bring cheers to 93 prisoners as the Yogi Adityanath government has decided to set them free. These convicts are lodged in different jails of Uttar Pradesh and their names were chosen from a list of prisoners who have completed their tenure in jail.
The names of convicts to be set free have been picked up in a random manner from a list of 135 such prisoners who are not named or are serving imprisonment in another case.
Vajpayee had represented Lucknow in the Lok Sabha five times – 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004.
His legacy was taken forward by BJP leaders Lalji Tondon and Rajnath Singh, who won Lok Sabha elections in 2009 and 2014.
Known for his exemplary leadership and contribution to Indian politics, Vajpayee is the only non-Congress leader who had served the nation as the prime minister and completed his full term.
Here is a look at Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s political journey:
Born in 1924, Vajpayee had his baptism in politics during the Quit India movement in 1942. He was also the first External Affairs Minister to deliver a speech in Hindi in the UN Assembly in New York.
His activism started with Arya Kumar Sabha of Gwalior, the youth wing of the Arya Samaj, of which he became the General Secretary in 1944. He also the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1939. Influenced by Babasaheb Apte, he attended the Officers Training Camp of the RSS during 1940-44 and became a “full-time worker” in 1947, technically a pracharak.
Vajpayee’s first exposure to politics was in August 1947, when he and his elder brother Prem were arrested for 23 days during the Quit India Movement, when he was released only after giving a written undertaking, expressly declaring not to participate in any of the anti-British struggle.
From 1975 to 1977, Vajpayee was arrested along with several other opposition leaders during the Internal Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1977, heeding the call of social reformer Jayaprakash Narayan for all the opposition parties to unite against the Congress, Vajpayee merged the Jana Sangh into the newly formed grand-alliance, the Janata Party.
As Janata Party emerged victorious in the 1977 general elections, Vajpayee became the Minister of External Affairs in Prime Minister Morarji Desai’s cabinet. As foreign minister, that year Vajpayee became the first person to deliver a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in Hindi.
However, the Janata Party was dissolved soon after Morarji Desai resigned as Prime Minister in 1979.
Vajpayee then joined many of his Bharatiya Jana Sangh and RSS colleagues, primarily L K Advani and Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, to form the BJP in 1980. He became the party’s first President, and emerged as a strong critic of the Congress (R) government that followed the Janata government.
Vajpayee has served as the Prime Minister of India between 1996 and 2004 in three non-consecutive terms.
A parliamentarian for over four decades, Vajpayee has been elected to the Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament of India) ten times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha (upper house). He also served as the Member of Parliament for Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, until 2009, when he retired from active politics due to health concerns.
On December 25, 2014, the office of the President of India announced the Bharat Ratna award, India’s highest civilian honour, to Vajpayee. In a special gesture, the President of India conferred Bharat Ratna to Atal Bihari Vajpayee in his residence on 27 March 2015.
Furthermore, the Centre under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014 announced that Vajpayee’s birthday would be celebrated as Good Governance Day annually.