Atal Behari Vajpayee

A man of the masses, firm in his political convictions. India has an inspiring leader in Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

On October 13, 1999, he took charge as prime minister of India for the second consecutive term at the head of a new coalition government, the National Democratic Alliance. He was prime minister for a short period in 1996. He is the only prime minister since Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru to have become prime minister of India through three successive mandates.

A veteran Parliamentarian whose career stretches over four decades, Shri 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 foreign minister, chairperson of various important standing committees of Parliament and leader of the opposition, he has been an active participant in the shaping of India's post-Independence domestic and foreign policy.

Shri 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 skillful use while representing India at various multilateral and bilateral fora.

Shri Vajpayee had embarked upon a journalist's career, which was cut short in 1951 when he joined the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the forerunner 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 to 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 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, 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 civilizational history, ever modernizing, ever-renewing, and ever re-energizing itself to meet the challenges of the next 1000 years.

India's second-highest civilian honor, 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."

Source: University Programs and Events Planning Resources, September 2003