India lost one of it's best ever politician, and a great human being on Thursday after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee passed away at the age of 93. He was suffering from respiratory and kidney ailments, and was admitted to AIIMS on June 11. But his condition deteriorated, and he bid goodbye to the nation at 5:05 pm on August 16.
Vajpayee was a top class leader when he was active in politics. In a political career which lasted nearly 74 years, he became one of the favorites, both within his own party and amongst the opposition ranks.
Following his unfortunate demise, the whole country has been left in shock. Right from those in power to normal citizens, everyone has been affected by his departure. Former cricketers and present cricketers also took to Twitter to mourn the loss of a great individual.
The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, VVS Laxman and Sourav Ganguly posted heartwarming messages soon after the unfortunate news broke out.
Vajpayee was the first ever non-Congress PM to complete his full five-year tenure, when he led the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA between 1999 and 2004. The 93-year-old, who was a towering figure in Indian politics for a number of decades, since the time that Jawaharlal Nehru was the Prime Minister, first assumed the top office in 1996 and then again in 1998.
His efforts, along with those of fellow-BJP stalwart LK Advani, led to the rise of the BJP, initially as the only national challenger to the then-dominant Congress, and more recently, to the biggest political party in the world in terms of membership.
A number of past and present leaders visited Vajpayee over the course of his treatment at AIIMS, particularly in the days immediately following him being admitted. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as well as former PMs Manmohan Singh and HD Deve Gowda visited him, as did BJP party president Amit Shah, Rahul Gandhi, LK Advani, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, among others. Chief Ministers Mamata Banerjee and Chandrababu Naidu also visited him while they were in the capital for the meeting of the Niti Aayog. The Prime Minister visited him on the evening of August 15 and also on Thursday, as his condition deteriorated.
Vajpayee was elected to the Lok Sabha for the first time in 1957 -- in India's second-ever general elections. His last election to India's Parliament was in 2004. In 2009, Vajpayee suffered a stroke which impaired his speech and eventually led to his being confined to a wheelchair.
Vajpayee assumed his first cabinet role all the way back in 1977 in the Morarji Desai-led government as the Minister of External Affairs. The Bharat Ratna, the country's highest civilian honour, was conferred upon him in 2015. The current Narendra Modi-led government has named a number of schemes after him, namely the Atal Pension Yojana as well as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation.
A number of massive events took place in the country during Vajpayee's Prime Minister-ship, ranging from the Pokhran-2 nuclear tests to the Kargil war in terms of issues of national security and the increased liberalisation of the Indian economy and a massive infrastructure push on the development front. The economic growth India witnessed at the time led to the BJP adopting 'India Shining' as its campaign slogan in the ill-fated 2004 general elections.
Apart from being an enormously influential politician, Vajpayee was also a prolific author, penning books on India's social and political dynamic as well as collections of his poetry.