Atal Bihari Vajpayee no more, confirms AIIMS | Former Prime Minister was 93

Charlene Craig
August 17, 2018

A four-member delegation from Pakistan will be attending the last rites of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away on Thursday.

The former prime minister was admitted to the facility in June with a urinary tract infection, a lower respiratory tract infection and kidney-related ailments but the hospital had said days later that he was recovering. He had suffered a stroke in 2009 that weakened his cognitive abilities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited him Wednesday night and Vice-President Venkiah Naidu on Thursday.

In May 1998, with barely two months in office as prime minister, Vajpayee presided over the Pokhran-II nuclear tests, in which India detonated nuclear bombs in the Rajasthani desert.

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Vajpayee led the party to its first national electoral victory in 1996, but lasted just 13 days as prime minister before he resigned in the face of a no- confidence motion. "RIP Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee".

Describing former prime minister's death as a "huge personal loss", Singh said he was pained beyond words at the demise of Vajpayee, who had cherished the ideal of a developed and powerful India.

A sea of people had followed Mr Vajpayee's funeral procession from the headquarters of the ruling BJP, the party he helped form in 1980. Manmohan Singh, who succeeded Vajpayee as PM in 2004, hailed the BJP stalwart as a great patriot and among modern India's tallest leaders who spent his whole life serving the country.

His peace efforts began with a groundbreaking bus ride to Lahore, Pakistan, in February 1999, where he met with then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Leaders of the BJP were gathering at his home in New Delhi to pay their respects.

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Vajpayee was one of the few leaders of the BJP to express anguish when hundreds of Muslims were killed rioting in 2002 in the western state of Gujarat.

That changed within a month of Vajpayee returning to the prime minister's post in 1998, when he approved a series of nuclear weapons tests that shocked the world and pushed Islamabad to launch its own tests.

The government announced the national flag will be flown at half staff in mourning for seven days at government offices and Indian embassies overseas. His funeral is to be held Friday afternoon.

Vajpayee never married but had a longtime companion who died in 2014 and whose daughter he adopted.

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