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Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee dies at 93; 7-day mourning announced

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, one of India’s most charismatic leaders who led the country through several crises and held together a tenuous coalition with his inclusive politics, died here today. He was 93.

Vajpayee, a bachelor, is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya.

His death was announced by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) hospital where he was admitted June 11 with a variety of ailments.

“It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of Former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at 05:05 PM,” the AIIMS said in a statement.

It said his condition was stable for the last nine weeks, but “unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems.”

“Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today. We join the Nation in deeply mourning this great loss,” said the statement by Dr (Prof) Aarti Vij.

Earlier today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and a host of other BJP as well as opposition leaders drove to AIIMS as it became clear that the end was near.

“It was Atalji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century,” Modi said.

Vajpayee, who joined the Rastriya Swamsevak Sangha (RSS) in 1947 rose through ranks to become a stalwart of the BJP and was the first non-Congress prime minister to complete a full term in office.

“It was due to the perseverance and struggles of Atal Ji that the BJP was built brick by brick,” Modi said in a tweet.

“He travelled across the length and breadth of India to spread the BJP’s message, which led to the BJP becoming a strong force in our national polity and in several states,” he added.

Seen as a moderate face of BJP, Vajpayee’s first became prime minister in 1996, leading a shaky coalition whose members were suspicious of the BJP’s right-wing politics. It lasted for 13 days and collapsed after losing a vote of no-confidence.

His second stint as prime minister was in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance again came to power but that lasted for just 13 months.

Finally, the NDA with Vajpayee as PM returned to power in 1999 and was voted out in 2004.

A 10-time MP of the Lok Sabha, Vajpayee announced his retirement from politics in 2005. He was also a member of the Rajya Sabha twice.

The former prime minister was admitted to the hospital on June 11 with a kidney tract infection, urinary tract infection, low urine output and chest congestion.

Vajpayee, a diabetic, had only one functional kidney. He suffered a stroke in 2009 that weakened his cognitive abilities. Subsequently, he developed dementia.

The Centre on Thursday announced a seven-day national mourning and state funeral for the late former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who will be cremated at Smriti Sthal on the banks of river Yamuna on Friday.

The tricolour will be flown at half mast throughout India and Indian missions abroad between August 16 and 22 — the period of national mourning.

These decisions were taken at a meeting of the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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