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Atal Behari Vajpayee
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Atal Behari Vajpayee

Atal Behari Vajpayee
Date of Birth: December 25, 1924
Place of Birth: Gwalior, MP
Prime Minister of India
Tenure Order: 10th Prime Minister
Political party: BJP
First Term
Took Office: May 16, 1996
Left Office: June 1, 1996
Predecessor: Narasimha Rao
Successor: Deve Gowda
Second Term
Took Office: March 19, 1998
Left Office: May 22, 2004
Predecessor: I. K. Gujral
Successor: Dr. Manmohan Singh

Atal Behari Vajpayee (also Bihari; अटल बिहारी वाजपेयी in Sanskrit) (born December 25, 1924) was the Prime Minister of India in 1996 and again from 1998 until May 19, 2004.

Vajpayee is a native of Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh state and has been active in Indian politics throughout his life.

He was one of the founding members of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh of which he was the president between 1968 and 1973. He was first elected to the Parliament of India in 1957 and was the leader of the Jana Sangh political party upto the formation of the Janata Party in 1977. He served as the Foreign Minister in the government of Morarji Desai from March 1977 to July 1979. In 1980, he left the Janata Party, part of a contingent dissatisfied with the progress of the Janata Party towards their goals, and helped form the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a Hindu nationalist party. He was leader of the BJP parliamentary party between 1980 and 1984, 1986 and between 1993 and 1996. He was the leader of the Opposition in the 11th Lok Sabha.

He became Prime Minister for the first time in 1996 as a member of the BJP and headed a short-lived 13-day government. He became Prime Minister for the second time in 1998, and he was re-elected on October 13, 1999, at the head of a coalition government controlled by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), of which the BJP was a major component. Secular allies in the coalition forced the BJP to moderate its Hindu nationalism, and in February 2004 Vajpayee even began reaching out to woo Muslims into the party.

At the same time, Vajpayee made peace overtures to Pakistan in hopes of settling their long-running dispute over Kashmir. He called an early election in hopes of winning another term but was defeated and resigned as both prime minister and party leader on May 12, 2004. He was succeeded as prime minister by Manmohan Singh of the Congress led coalition United Progressive Alliance.

He is well-known for being a poet, and has published a book of poetry. He is a bachelor, and has an adopted daughter. He is a follower of the controversial guru Sathya Sai Baba whom he defended in a public letter.

After the NDA lost the elections in 2004, he refused the post of Leader of the Opposition and was instead elected leader of the NDA. Lal Krishna Advani, his deputy when he was Prime Minister was elected leader of the opposition. Ironically, this situation is a mirror of the situation of the ruling UPA in which Sonia Gandhi leads the UPA while Manmohan Singh is the Prime Minister.

His retirement from politics has been the subject of great speculation in the media as he has hinted from time to time that he will retire soon. He has tried to retain his moderate image and made statements that have been viewed ungenerously by the party as it is now keen to re-establish its extreme Hindutva image. During his tenure, he took several steps to invite foreign investment but when in opposition, he now speaks of opposing raising of caps on foreign direct investment.

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