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Vajpayee, Atal Bihari

(born Dec. 15, 1924, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India) Leader of India's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and prime minister of India in 1996 and from 1998 to 2004. Politically active as a teenager, he was briefly jailed by British colonial authorities. He was first elected to parliament in 1957 as a member of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a forerunner of the BJP. He served as foreign minister in the late 1970s and helped formally establish the BJP in 1980. In 1992 he was one of the few Hindu leaders to speak out against the destruction of the historic Babri Masjid mosque by anti-Muslim extremists. Elected prime minister in May 1996, he was unable to form a government and resigned after 13 days. In 1998 and 1999 he was again elected prime minister as head of a BJP-led coalition. In May 1998 nuclear weapons tests ordered by Vajpayee drew international condemnation and economic sanctions. In 2000 his government began an extensive program of divestment of public funds from several key state-run industries. Under his leadership India achieved steady economic growth and became a world leader in information technology. In 2004 his coalition was defeated in parliamentary elections, and he resigned from office.

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(born Dec. 15, 1924, Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India) Leader of India's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and prime minister of India in 1996 and from 1998 to 2004. Politically active as a teenager, he was briefly jailed by British colonial authorities. He was first elected to parliament in 1957 as a member of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, a forerunner of the BJP. He served as foreign minister in the late 1970s and helped formally establish the BJP in 1980. In 1992 he was one of the few Hindu leaders to speak out against the destruction of the historic Babri Masjid mosque by anti-Muslim extremists. Elected prime minister in May 1996, he was unable to form a government and resigned after 13 days. In 1998 and 1999 he was again elected prime minister as head of a BJP-led coalition. In May 1998 nuclear weapons tests ordered by Vajpayee drew international condemnation and economic sanctions. In 2000 his government began an extensive program of divestment of public funds from several key state-run industries. Under his leadership India achieved steady economic growth and became a world leader in information technology. In 2004 his coalition was defeated in parliamentary elections, and he resigned from office.

Learn more about Vajpayee, Atal Bihari with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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