Premiership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee
First Term
In office
11 May 1996 – 28 May 1996
Preceded byP.V. Narasimha Rao
Succeeded byH.D. Deve Gowda
Second Term
In office
19 March 1998 – 22 May 2004
Preceded byI. K. Gujral
Succeeded byManmohan Singh
Personal details
Born(1924-12-25)25 December 1924
Gwalior State, British India
DiedAugust 16, 2018(2018-08-16) (aged 93)
New Delhi, India
Political partyBharatiya Janata Party
OccupationPolitician , Poet

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was an Indian politician who served twice as Prime Minister of India, first from 16 May to 1 June 1996, and then from 19 March 1998 to 22 May 2004. A member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Vajpayee was the tenth Prime Minister. He headed the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance in the Indian Parliament, and became the first Prime Minister unaffiliated with the Indian National Congress to complete a full five-year term in office. He died at the age of 93 on Thursday 16 August 2018 at 17:05 at AIIMS, New Delhi.

Formation of government[edit]

After the 1996 general election, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of Parliament. Vajpayee was invited by President Shankar Dayal Sharma to form a government, but after 13 days in office, proved unable to muster a governing majority and resigned. He was replaced by H. D. Dewe Gowda, leader of the United Front (UF) coalition, and became the Leader of the Opposition.

The United Front was only able to sustain a majority in Parliament until 1998, resigning after the Indian National Congress withdrew its support. In the 1998 Indian general election the BJP again emerged as the single-largest party, but was able to assemble a governing coalition called the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Other constituents of the NDA included the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), Bahujan Samaj Party, Shiv Sena, Shiromani Akali Dal, National Conference (NC) and the Trinamool Congress (TC), amongst others.

By early 1999, the NDA government lost its majority after the AIADMK withdrew its support.[1] President K. R. Narayanan dissolved the Parliament and called fresh elections – the third in two years. Public anger against smaller parties that jeopardised the NDA coalition and the wave of support for the Vajpayee government in the aftermath of the Kargil War gave the BJP a larger presence in the Lok Sabha. The NDA won a decisive majority with the support of new constituents such as the Janata Dal (United) and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

Economic policy[edit]

The Vajpayee government expanded the process of economic liberalisation initiated by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government (1991–1996). His government initiated the privatisation of most state corporations, including the Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd. His government also began the establishment of special export processing zones, Information Technology and Industrial Parks across the country to bolster industrial production and exports. In its third term (1999–2004), his government launched the National Highway Development Project, with the first phase being the Golden Quadrilateral. In 2003, the government launched the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman (Honouring of Non-Resident Indians) and initiated plans to establish an Overseas citizenship of India to enable NRIs to invest and do business freely in India. His government also expanded efforts to encourage foreign investment, especially from Europe and the United States.

Foreign policy[edit]

The Vajpayee government improved India's ties with the People's Republic of China, boosting trade and seeking the resolution of territorial disputes through dialogue. India also established strategic and military cooperation with Israel, with both nations establishing cooperation in fighting terrorism. In 2000, U.S. President Bill Clinton became the first American president to visit India since Jimmy Carter. The U.S. and India ended the Cold War-era distant relationship and expanded trade and cooperation on strategic issues. After the 11 September 2001 attacks, India provided much strategic assistance to the U.S. in its war against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

In 1999, Vajpayee personally travelled to Pakistan on the inaugural Delhi-Lahore Bus, which established a regular road link between the two countries for the first time since 1947. Vajpayee and the then-Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif issued the Lahore Declaration, which committed the two nations to resolve bilateral disputes through dialogue and concurrently boost trade. However, the Lahore summit's success was diminished by the outbreak of the Kargil War just months later. In 2001, Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf held the Agra summit, which failed to produce results and was overshadowed by the 2001-2002 India-Pakistan standoff. In 2003, Vajpayee declared in the Indian Parliament that he was making his final initiative to make peace with Pakistan, and oversaw considerable improvement in relations and a ceasefire between Indian forces and militant groups in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

National Security[edit]

Pokhran-II nuclear tests[edit]

In May, 1998 India conducted five underground nuclear tests – Pokhran-II, following the Pokhran-I test of 1974. These tests established India as a nuclear weapons power, although it also resulted in the imposition of limited sanctions by the U.S., UK, Canada and other nations. By 2001, most of these sanctions had been lifted.

Kargil War[edit]

In 1999, two months after the bilateral summit in Lahore, India discovered that Pakistani army disguised as terrorists had infiltrated through the Line of Control (LoC) into the state of Jammu and Kashmir with active Pakistani assistance and participation. In response, the Indian armed forces launched Operation Vijay to evict the infiltrators. By July, 1999 Indian forces had reclaimed territories on its side of the LoC. The Vajpayee government also established the Defence Intelligence Agency to provide better military intelligence and monitor India's border with Pakistan.[citation needed]


The terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament building on 13 December 2001, conducted by Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed terrorists[2][3] led to the death of a dozen people (5 terrorists, 6 police and 1 civilian)[4] and the 2001-2002 India-Pakistan standoff. In response to these attacks and an escalation in terrorist attacks in other parts of India, the NDA government promulgated the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Although a tougher anti-terrorism law than Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, POTA was criticised as compromising civil liberties and encouraging profiling of the Indian Muslim community.[5] As the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Parliament, was controlled by opposition parties, the Vajpayee government called a historic joint session of both houses of the Indian Parliament in order to enact POTA into law.[5]

Gujarat violence[edit]

On 27 February 2002, the Sabarmati Express train was attacked at Godhra by a Muslim mob.[6][7][8][9] 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya were killed in the attack.[10] Lasting for over a month, the riots claimed the lives of more than 1,000 people, mostly Muslims.[11][12][13] The state government, led by Narendra Modi of the BJP, was severely criticised for being unable or unwilling to stop the violence.[14]

Vajpayee officially condemned the violence.[15] Later Vajpayee made controversial remarks: "Wherever there are Muslims, they do not want to live in peace with others. Instead of living peacefully, they want to propagate their religion by creating terror in the minds of others." According to Sanjay Ruparelia, Vajpayee used Muslim terrorism to justify the violence in Gujarat.[16] Ornit Shani believes that Vajpayee's government believed that Muslim provoked violence against themselves by simply being Muslim.[17] The Milli Gazette criticized Vajpayee as "Muslim-bashing".[18] Rafiq Dossani believes that Vajpayee was appealing to a post-9/11 neo-conservative mood.[19]

Vajpayee was accused of doing nothing to stop the violence. He later admitted his mistake in underestimating the violence and not doing enough to stop it.[20]

K.R. Narayanan, then president of India, stated that the violence stemmed from a "conspiracy" between Vajpayee's central BJP-led government, and Gujarat's BJP government.[21] Narayanan said he wrote several letters to Vajpayee asking him deploy the Indian army to quell the violence. Narayanan didn't speak out against Vajpayee during his term as president, as the Indian Constitution permits the president to speak only with the permission of the Prime Minister.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "South Asia Vajpayee's thirteen months". BBC News. 17 April 1999. Retrieved 14 September 2017.
  2. ^ "Govt blames LeT for Parliament attack"
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 11 June 2010. Retrieved 12 July 2009.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ "Terrorists attack Parliament; five intruders, six cops killed". 2006. Rediff India. 13 December 2001
  5. ^ a b Sudha Ramachandran (27 March 2002). "New Indian terror law strikes fear". Asia Times. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  6. ^ India Godhra train blaze verdict: 31 convicted BBC News, 22 February 2011.
  7. ^ It was not a random attack on S-6 but kar sevaks were targeted, says judge The Hindu — 6 March 2011
  8. ^ The Godhra conspiracy as Justice Nanavati saw it Archived 22 February 2012 at WebCite The Times of India, 28 September 2008. Retrieved 2012-02-19. Archived 21 February 2012.
  9. ^ Godhra case: 31 guilty; court confirms conspiracy, 22 February 2011 19:26 IST. Sheela Bhatt, Ahmedabad.
  10. ^ Sabarmati Express set ablaze, 57 dead,The Tribune
  11. ^ These figures were reported to the Rajya Sabha by the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Sriprakash Jaiswal in May, 2005. "Gujarat riot death toll revealed". BBC News. 11 May 2005.
  12. ^ PTI (12 May 2005). "BJP cites govt statistics to defend Modi". ExpressIndia. Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  13. ^ PTI (11 May 2005). "254 Hindus, 790 Muslims killed in post-Godhra riots". Archived from the original on 26 February 2009. Retrieved 12 July 2009.
  14. ^ "Court orders Gujarat riot review". BBC News. 17 August 2004.
  15. ^ "Vajpayee condemns Godhra carnage, Gujarat communal violence".
  16. ^ Sanjay Ruparelia (April 2006). "Rethinking Institutional Theories of Political Moderation: The Case of Hindu Nationalism in India, 1996-2004". Comparative Politics. 38 (3): 317–336. doi:10.2307/20434000.
  17. ^ Ornit Shani (2007). Communalism, Caste and Hindu Nationalism: The Violence in Gujarat. Cambridge University Press. p. 172.
  18. ^ "Vajpayee equates Islam with terrorism".
  19. ^ a b Rafiq Dossani (2008). India Arriving: How This Economic Powerhouse Is Redefining Global Business. AMACOM Div American Mgmt Assn. p. 154.
  20. ^ "Vajpayee admits mistake over Gujarat". CNN. 13 April 2002. Archived from the original on 7 March 2013. Retrieved 21 February 2013.
  21. ^ "Narayanan Blames BJP for Gujarat Riots". 3 March 2005.
  22. ^ "Atal Bihari Vajpayee Awards - Late Prime Minister of india"". Indore [M.P.] India. 6 February 2020.