Born on 25th December 1924 in Gwalior, Atal Bihari Vajpayee went on to become the 10th Prime Minister of India. He served for 3 terms, of which the 1st one was just for 13 days, the 2nd one was for 13 months and the 3rd was a full term from 1999-2004. He is also known for winning 10 Lok Sabha elections and being nominated twice for Rajya Sabha, thus being a member of parliament for 12 terms. He retired from active politics in 2009, due to health issues, and is currently the oldest living former PM, at 92 Years of age. He was arrested during the emergency in 1971, and became the foreign minister in Morarji Desai’s government. He was the first Indian foreign minister, to speak in Hindi at the UN General Assembly.
Atalji was known as a poet, an astute and courageous politician and leader, who was loved by the masses and respected across the political spectrum. His oratory skills were unmatched, and his speeches used to be full of witty oneliners and couplets of poetry. Be it an interaction with media or replying to the opposition in the parliament, Atalji almost always used to be at his best. In his entire political career, Atalji never used un-parliamentary language or words, even for his opponents, neither did he ever lose his coolness, which is a rarity to find in the politicians of today.
When Atalji was the national president of the BJP, a leader of the party’s Punjab unit, Shri Satyapal Khanna, had been killed by the terrorists in Amritsar. He went there after the incident, and challenged the terrorists to kill him, instead of his party workers.
He had done this even after being fully aware, of how dangerous it can prove to be for his life. After this incident, Atalji was giving an interview to a journalist. The journalist asked him, “Your name is in the hit list of the terrorists. Are you not afraid of death?”.
Atalji after hearing the question and taking his signature ‘pause’, answered as follows: “Not just mine, the names of many of my party workers are there on their hit list. Some party workers have also become the target of the bullets of these terrorists. When Shri Satyapal Khanna was murdered in Amritsar, I went there, and I had said that I am the president of the Bharatiya Janta Party. If you want to kill someone, then kill me.” He then said, “Death has to come some day. There’s nothing to fear about death. If I ever get killed by the terrorists, I will pray to God, to give me another birth as an Indian, so that I can get my country to win the war against terrorism, make my country stronger and undefeatable.”
Like any other political leader, Atalji saw both successes as well as failures. After the BJP led NDA lost the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, he was humble enough to own the defeat, and nominated his colleague L K Advani as the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha. He continued to be the chairman of the NDA coalition, until a brain stroke in 2009, left him with impaired speech. This was the end of a glorious political career, lasting 57 Years. He is now said to be suffering with dementia and diabetes, and fails to recognize people. Very few people get to meet him, and he is taken out only for health checkups, for which he has to go to the AIIMS in New Delhi.