Former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee dies aged 93

The Hindu nationalist was one of the most popular leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party

 File image from April 1991 of Atal Bihari Vajpayee waving to supporters during a rally. File photograph: Douglas Curran/AFP/Getty Images

File image from April 1991 of Atal Bihari Vajpayee waving to supporters during a rally. File photograph: Douglas Curran/AFP/Getty Images

 

Former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has died at the age of 93 after a prolonged illness.

Mr Vajpayee was one of the most popular leaders of prime minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. He served as prime minister briefly in 1996 and then again from 1998 to 2004.

In 1998, Mr Vajpayee ordered nuclear weapons tests which stoked fears of an atomic war with rival Pakistan.

However, he later launched a groundbreaking peace process with Islamabad.

Mr Vajpayee was a contradictory figure: a moderate in an often-strident Hindu nationalist movement, a lifelong poet who revered nature, and a leader who oversaw India’s growth into a regional economic power.

Mr Vajpayee’s supporters saw him as a skilled politician, while critics accused him and his party of stoking public fears in relation to India’s large Muslim minority.

However, both sides agreed he was a rare thing in Indian politics: a man untainted by corruption scandals. – AP/Reuters