OPINION: Atal Bihari Vajpayee, PM who took bold decisions & faced extraordinary situations


When we talk about famous Prime Ministers of India, we can’t miss the name of the 10th Prime Minister of the country, Mr. Atal Bihari Vajpayee who is presently undergoing treatment at the premier institute–AIIMS. On June 11, former PM was admitted to the hospital with a kidney tract infection, chest congestion and urinary tract infection.

A veteran leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), he (93) is the first non-Indian National Congress Prime Minister to serve a full term of five-year. Vajpayee is currently the oldest living ex-Indian Prime Minister.

Apart from being remembered as a marvellous orator, Vajpayee’s tenure as PM is recollected for some important happening like Nuclear tests, Kargil War and Indian Airlines hijack among others.

Mr. Vajpayee’s tenure as PM was marked by some tough decisions and some extraordinary circumstances.

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The Nuclear tests

India, in May 1998, just a month after the government had been in power, conducted five underground nuclear tests in Rajasthan’s Pokhran desert. Called as Pokhran-II, these tests took place 24 yrs after India conducted its first nuclear test (Smiling Buddha) in 1974. Despite the intense international disapproval and decline in foreign investment and trade, the nuclear tests were popular domestically.

International sanctions failed in swaying India’s decision to weaponise their nuclear capability and US sanctions against India were, reportedly, lifted after just six months.

Lahore summit

After Nuke tests, India’s relation with Pakistan got tensed. To break the ice, Mr. Vajpayee tried for a full-scale diplomatic peace process with the neighbour as he aimed towards permanently resolving the Kashmir dispute and other conflicts with Pakistan. He inaugurated historic Delhi-Lahore bus service in February 1999. The consequential Lahore Declaration championed a commitment to dialogue, expanded trade relations and mutual bond.

Kargil War

The Kargil War (May 1999 – July 1999) was the first challenge Vajpayee faced. Indian Army swiftly rushed into Kashmir in response. Over 500 Indian soldiers took bullets on their chests in the three-month-long war. We pushed back the Pakistani militants. As per some reports, Mr Vajpayee sent a “secret letter” to US President affirming that if Pak infiltrators did not withdraw from the Indian territory, “we will get them out, one way or the other”.

Indian Airlines hijack

Just a few months after the Kargil War, in December 1999, a national emergency arose when Indian Airlines (Flight IC 814) from Nepal’s Kathmandu to India’s New Delhi was hijacked by five terrorists. It was flown to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The captors demanded the release of terrorists like Masood Azhar and under extreme pressure, the government ultimately caved in.

2001 attack on Parliament

On 13 December 2001, a group of armed men with fake IDs stormed the Parliament. The terrorists killed several security guards. However, the building was sealed off swiftly. The Pakistan government officially condemned the attack. However, reports from Indian intelligence pointed to a conspiracy rooted in Pakistan.

Once again, acting tough the then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee ordered a mobilisation of Army and as many as five lakh servicemen amassed along the border. Nearly two years, both nations remained scarily close to a war.

As a PM, poet-cum-politician Vajpayee’s tenure was one of the most challenging ones and because of his “haarnahimanunga” attitude, he successfully steered through troubled waters.

About the author: Author is Deputy Editor in India TV and tweets at @AnuragSason
Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author are personal and do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and views of India TV.


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