In Pictures: Recounting Vajpayee’s Journey on His 91st Birthday

As Atal Bihari Vajpayee turns 91, here is a look at some memorable moments in his political career.

3 min read

Former Indian Prime Minister and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee turned 91 on 25 December, Friday.

Born in 1924 in Gwalior, the stalwart politician and poet now leads a quiet life and is considered one of India’s most respected Prime Ministers. He is arguably one of the tallest non-Congress leaders, who provided an alternative political discourse to the nation, along with the likes of Jayaprakash Narayan.

He played a key role in Indian politics for over five decades. The high point, of course, was when he became Prime Minister in 1998.


As a teenager, Vajpayee was briefly jailed for opposing British colonial rule. He flirted with communism in his early twenties before choosing to support the right-wing Hindu party Rashtriya Swamyamsevak Sangh (RSS) and the Jan Sangh.

In the 1950s, Vajpayee dropped out of law school to run an RSS magazine. Later, he transcended his political roots in the RSS to emerge as the moderate voice of the BJP.

Vajpayee steered the country ably from 1998 to 2004 through a period of economic turbulence following the Asian meltdown, the post-Pokharan nuclear sanctions, the post-dotcom bust, and the Kargil war.

Vajpayee was the first non-Congress Prime Minister to serve a full five year term, from 1999 to 2004.

He sought to improve relations with neighbouring China and progress was made with Beijing while he was PM.

Vajpayee visited the US four times while he was Prime Minister. The Indian government clinched a deal with the US on technology transfers to India.

It was Vajpayee and Putin who were the main architects of the Declaration of Strategic Partnership Agreement which they signed in 2000. Since then, both countries meet annually.

The Narendra Modi government decided to mark Vajpayee’s birthday as “Good Governance Day” on 2014.

Earlier this year, President Pranab Mukherjee even broke protocol to confer a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award, on the ailing former prime minister at his residence.

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