Former president Pranab Mukherjee paying his tributes to Atal Bihari Vajpayee had described him as a reasoned critique in the opposition, who dominated the space like a titan, and a seeker of consensus as prime minister.
As the government and the BJP pulled out the stops to honour and extol the departed Atal Bihari Vajpayee, party sources admitted hoping that the former Prime Minister's passing would generate a sympathy wave for the BJP in the upcoming elections. Directed by Yash Chopra, the famous song that starred Shah Rukh Khan was shot in just 2 days.
In May 1998, just weeks into his second spell as prime minister, Mr Vajpayee ordered nuclear tests in the Rajasthan desert, which caught the global community off guard and prompted sanctions.
But unlike Modi, who critics say is a polarizing figure despite his pledge of inclusive development for India's 1.3 billion people, Vajpayee was the moderate face of Hindu nationalism, admired even by prominent political foes.
"Atal-ji may have gone, but his ideas, views, simplicity will always inspire us Indians", he said. His condition worsened further on Wednesday evening with leaders from across the political spectrum thronging the hospital and enquiring about his health.
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He also became 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. His passing away marks the end of an era.
Vajpayee never married. He is survived by his adopted daughter, Namita.
A parliamentarian for over four decades, he was conferred the Bharat Ratna in 2015.
"Madam, I was hurt very much", the then-prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, told a reporter in June 1998.
Vajpayee was returned to the premiership in 1999 after his BJP-led coalition secured a comfortable majority in the wake of a two-month long war with Pakistan over control of Kashmir. Bilateral agreements signed between his government and Moscow set the stage for annual summits which continue to this day, as does the close relationship with China he cultivated.