Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Former Indian prime minister dies after illness aged 93

Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Former Indian prime minister dies after illness aged 93

The condition of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has worsened over the past 24 hours and he has been put on life-support system, the AIIMS said in a statement tonight.

Ninety-three-year-old Vajpayee has been hospitalized for more than two months after being admitted for treatment of a kidney infection and chest congestion. He suffered a stroke in 2009 that weakened his cognitive abilities.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led condolences in a series of tweets, calling Vajpayee's death a "personal and irreplaceable loss".

He was the prime minister who ordered nuclear tests in 1998, stoking fears of atomic war between India and Pakistan.

However, he was later involved in a groundbreaking peace process with Islamabad.

He again served as India's prime minister from 1999 to 2004.

Reacting to the sad development which has shocked the country, Sudheendra Kulkarni, Ex-aide to former PM, said he worked with Kulkarni for 6 years, he treated everyone with respect, he further said that Vajpayee had asserted that the Kashmir dispute cannot be solved constitutionally, and only by the boundaries of humanity.

He said it was due to Vajpayee's perseverance and struggles that the BJP was built brick by brick.

Mr Vajpayee was the first non-Congress leader since India's independence in 1947 to complete an entire term in office as head of a BJP-led ruling alliance between March 1998 and May 2004.

One of India's longest-serving lawmakers, Vajpayee was elected nine times to the powerful Lok Sabha, or lower house of Parliament. Pakistan waited a few weeks, and then conducted its own nuclear tests.

"Madam, I was hurt very much", the then-prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, told a reporter in June 1998.

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. The government conferred the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, on him in 2015. Following his death, many people chanted "Atal Bihari Amar Rahe" as Vajpayee's cortege made its way to the city to reach BJP headquarters, where innumerable leaders gathered to pay tribute to him. His funeral is to be held Friday afternoon.

Students from an art school place flower petals around a painting of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Mumbai, India.

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