Atal Bihari Vajpayee

10th prime minister of India in 1996, 1998 and from 1999–2004

Atal Bihari Vajpayee (December 25, 1924 - August 16, 2018) was an Indian politician who thrice served as the Prime Minister of India, first for a term of 13 days in 1996, for a period of eleven months from 1998 to 1999, and then for a full term from 1999 to 2004.

India is an ancient nation and not nation in the making. We are not to build a new nation but to make this ancient nation virile to face the challenge of modern times.
Bush–Vajpayee meeting in December 2001 in Washington
Vajpayee meeting Vladimir Putin in 2001


  • Under the agreement of 1951, Tibet is to have autonomy in its internal affairs. But China has violated the agreement. It has interfered in the internal affairs of Tibet. Lakhs of people from China are being settled in Tibet so that the Tibetans shall be reduced to a minority in their own land... Thousands have been taken from Tibet for inculcating a new religion in them... When we recognized the suzerainty of China over Tibet, we made a great mistake. That was an unfortunate day... China has violated the agreement that it signed with India... When people cannot protect and practise even their religion under communism, how can one say that communism and democracy are compatible?... Tibet is not the internal affair of China... The Government of India should think again about the policy it has been pursuing... If we can champion the cause of Algeria’s independence, why can we not speak out for the independence of Tibet? On the same criteria, is Algeria not the internal affair of France?... Our party supports the independence of Tibet... Can Tibet conceivably attain autonomy within China? Communism and autonomy are antonyms... When we were championing the cause of China in the UN, we could as well have championed that of Tibet. Ukraine is a part of the Soviet Union but it has its own membership of the UN... With howsoever much restraint our prime minister may pursue our policy, if that policy does not help solve the problem of Tibet, then we will have to acknowledge that there is need to inject some firmness into that policy, some activism... A large country has swallowed a small one... As far as India is concerned, China has a malevolent eye towards us... How come, the new Government of China has thrown Chiang Kai-shek out but kept his maps?... This is hidden aggression against India. In Uttar Pradesh, China is squatting over two places that it has wrested. Such incidents point to a gathering calamity... The Tibetan refugees now in India should be allowed to campaign for the freedom of their country just as our freedom fighters campaigned in foreign lands for India’s freedom... This is a new imperialism. Its danger is that it comes wearing the disguise of revolution. It comes shouting the slogans of a new era. But this is imperialism, it is expansionism...
    • Lok Sabha Debates, 8 May 1959, cols. 15918–25. quoted from Arun Shourie - Self-Deception _ India's China Policies_ Origins, Premises, Lessons-Harper Collins (2013) ch 10
  • There are some people who are telling the Muslims not to vote for the BJP whereas the truth is that the BJP has never worked against any minority, including the Muslims.
    • February 19, 2002, Jaihind . Quoted in Madhu Purnima Kishwar: Modi, Muslims and Media. Voices from Narendra Modi’s Gujarat, Manushi Publications, Delhi 2014.
  • We, the Indians, as Guru of the Nations: yes, I believe in that. We can be—or once more become— the hope of mankind. But that requires efforts and courage to be ourselves culturally. Unfortunately, we live in an age of political dwarfs, political managers without vision or courage. But their time is running out.
    • Vajpayee interviewed by Erich Follath and Tiziano Terzani: “Guru der Nationen”, Der Spiegel, 1996/19, p. 163. quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.168
  • I have a vision of India: an India free of hunger and fear, an India free of illiteracy and want. I dream of an India that is prosperous, strong and caring. An India, that regains a place of honour in the comity of great nations.
  • Our aim may be as high as the endless sky, but we should have a resolve in our minds to walk ahead, hand-in-hand for victory will be ours.
  • In our search for a lasting solution to the Kashmir problem, both in its external and internal dimensions, we shall not traverse solely on the beaten track of the past. Mindsets will have to be altered and historical baggage jettisoned.
  • Kinchit nahin bhaybhit main, Kartavya path par jo bhi mile, Yeh bhi sahi woh bhi sahi
    English translation:I am not afraid of defeat and victory, whatever comes my way of duty, I will accept it, because this is true and that is true.
  • Secularists like you don’t have to spend sleepless nights over this. I will carry the secular baggage on my broad shoulders.
    • In reply to question by the correspondent if incidents like the hijack would do irreparable damage to the BJP and his image, the plane flying from Delhi to Lucknow was hijacked quoted in "The truth according to Vajpayee".
  • Hindu tan man, Hindu Jeevan, Rag rag Hindu mera parichay. English translation: Hindu body and soul, Hindu life, in every pore my identity is of a Hindu
    • His poem quoted in "The truth according to Vajpayee".

Quotes from


Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Ataljee organization. Retrieved on 5 December 2013.

  • With the banner of Nationalism in our hearts to build up a Mighty India, let us march forward on the path of Duty. This is no time for rest; this is no occasion for faltering. Let us go onwards and onwards, till we reach the Goal.
    • Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha Session- July, 18-19 1970, Chandigarh
  • India is an ancient nation and not nation in the making. We are not to build a new nation but to make this ancient nation virile to face the challenge of modern times.
    • Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha Session, Indore – September, 7-8, 1968
  • Our National life is full of diversities. We have here a variety of languages, of faiths, of communities, of modes of living, and schools and styles of literature and art. This diversity reflects the abundance of our national life, and need to be preserved and promoted.
    • Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha Session, Indore – September, 7-8, 1968
  • They who interpret secularism as dharma-nirpekshata fail to understand either dharma or secularism. A secular state does not mean an anti-religious state, nor even an irreligious state. For, in that sense, the people of India just never can become secular. A secular state simply means a state which does not identify itself with any specific mode of worship and holds the balance even between all sects- secularism thus mean sampradayanirpekshata and not dharma-nirpekshata.
    • Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha Session, Indore – September, 7-8, 1968
  • The question is not of ‘right’ and ‘left’; the issue really is Democracy versus Totalitarianism. The choice is not between ‘progressivism’ and ‘reaction’; the people have to choose between forces uncompromisingly pledged in their loyalty to the nation with extra-territorial loyalties. Differences are bound to remain in the country, but the Indian nation cannot afford to be divided in its basic commitment to Nationalism and Democracy.
    • 16th All India Session- Chanakya Nagar, Patna – 28-30 December - 1969
  • A Sense of oneness, a sense of indianess requires to be created among our youth to halt the mad rush towards an imported five star video culture. We believe that through dedication and perseverance we will realize national unity and create a new India of our dreams. In Delhi, I gave you a slogan: ”Unite and win, today we are achieving unity, tomorrow we will achieve victory", Vandematram.
    • Indore, 6 - 8 January 1984
  • The enemy is within our very hearts and minds. It is the cancer of doubts and despair which is overtaking our people. It is the loss of faith in our system, in the very future of our beloved motherland. This creeping rot must end. I am sure that very soon, by the grace of god and the inherent good sense of the Indian people, it will end. But that calls for a great national effort.
    • New Delhi, 15-17 April 1983
  • We are committed to bridge the gap between the city and the village.
    We are committed to bridge the gap between capital and the labour.
    We are committed to bridge the gap between the citizen and the administration.
    We are committed to bridge the gap between the centre and the states.
    We are committed to bridge the gap between Linguistic, religious and caste groups.
    • New Delhi, 15-17 April 1983
  • All democracies, especially in developing countries that have considerable diversities and carry the burden of developmental imbalances, have had to grapple with one paramount challenge and that is : how to harmonies’ the legitimate self – assertion of communities that suffered deprivation and dis-empowerment in the past with imperatives of good governance.
    • New Delhi, January 22, 2003
  • My poetry is a declaration of war, not an exordium to defeat. It is not the defeated soldier's drumbeat of despair, but the fighting warrior's will to win. It is not the de-spirited voice of dejection but the stirring shout of victory.
    • New York September 7, 2000 Asia Society Annual Dinner
  • We are nations forged from many traditions and faiths, proving year after year that diversity is our strength. From vastly different origins and experiences, we have come to the same conclusions: that freedom and democracy are the strongest bases for both peace and prosperity, and that they are universal aspirations, constrained neither by culture nor levels of economic development.
    • New York September 7, 2000 Asia Society Annual Dinner

About Atal Bihari Vajpayee

  • Their strategy was simple. Moral domination. Nehru was a thinker. But Rajiv, Sonia, and Rahul are no intellectuals. They took a different route. They redefined morality. Secularism included. Anti-Congress was new immoral. Pro-Hindu became anti-Muslim. India was morally polarized. Morality is subjective. No one can say with guarantee what is pure morality. Masses were forced to choose between moral standards (Secularism, unity in diversity, inclusive etc.) and quality of life (development). People who wanted quality of life were made to feel guilty. Hindus who wanted to celebrate their religious freedom were made to feel guilty. Muslims who wanted to be part of mainstream India were made to feel guilty. They filled India’s psyche with fear, hate and guilt. They hated all indigenous, grassroots thinkers. They hated Sardar Patel, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Chandrashekhar, P.V. Narsimha Rao, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and now Modi. They are the land grabbers of Sainik Farms and Adarsh Societies of India. They run NGOs. They run media. They coin useless and irrelevant jargon to confuse the masses. They have designations but no real jobs. They are irrelevant NRIs who want us to see a reality which doesn’t exist. They want a plebiscite in Kashmir. They defend stone-pelters. They want Maoists to participate in mainstream politics. They want Tejpal to be freed. Yaqub to be pardoned. But they want Modi to be hanged. They are the hijackers of national morality. Secularism included. They are the robbers of Indian treasury. They are the brokers of power. They are the pimps of secularism. They are the Intellectual Mafia.
    • Vivek Agnihotri, Urban Naxals: The Making of Buddha in a Traffic Jam (2018, Garuda Prakashan)
  • The Indian and Western elite did not regard any of Nehru’s successors as ‘thinking’ leaders. Indira Gandhi tried hard to win over India’s intellectual elite, but the Emergency broke a nascent link. When men like P.N. Haksar and P.N. Dhar were hounded out of her inner circle, India’s intellectuals deserted her. Rajiv Gandhi was never taken seriously by this elite. Narasimha Rao may have been a scholar in his own right, but he was an ‘outsider’ to India’s metropolitan elite. In Andhra Pradesh, among the Telugu-speaking elite he was known as an ashtavadhani, a literary master. But Delhi’s elite tended to conflate his intellectual achievements with the fact that he was fluent in many languages. Vajpayee too was a highly regarded poet. Indeed, Rao and Vajpayee enjoyed the company of intellectuals and could count many professors among their friends. But in the snobbish world of the metropolitan elite, an Oxbridge type like Dr Singh was regarded as a class apart from these home-grown politician-intellectuals.
    • Baru, Sanjaya (2015). The accidental Prime Minister.
  • “I think Vajpayee is a dyed-in-the-wool RSS man.”
    • Prof. Paul Brass, as quoted in Elst, K. On Modi Time : Merits And Flaws of Hindu Activism In Its Day Of Incumbency – 2015.
  • No matter how many concessions A.B. Vajpayee offered during his 13-day tenure as Prime Minister in search of a majority, no matter how hard he kicked his Kashmiri refugee supporters in the groin by promising to preserve Art. 370, no matter how sincerely he condemned the Ayodhya demolition, he did not get a single undertaking from a non-"communal" parliamentarian to support the government during the confidence vote. No matter how deep the BJP leaders crawl in the dust begging for certificates of good secular conduct from their enemies, this has never yielded them anything except contempt. But so far, everything indicates that they can be counted upon to continue in the same direction.
    • Elst, Koenraad. (1997) BJP vis-à-vis Hindu Resurgence
  • Today, to put down Modi, Congressmen don’t tire of praising Atal Bihari Vajpayee as a moderate consensus builder. But while Vajpayee was prime minister he was targeted with as much ruthlessness as Modi—only that it cut less ice with the media or the people at large because Vajpayee was a well known national figure. By contrast, Modi was a relatively obscure regional leader for most Indians, as well as for most media professionals.
    • Kishwar, Madhu (2014). Modi, Muslims and media: Voices from Narendra Modi's Gujarat. p.174
  • He is a young leader of opposition. Who is always criticizing me. But I see in him a great future.
    • Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru introducing Vajpayee to the visiting British Prime Minister quoted in "A. B. Vajpayee: An Eloquent Speaker and a Visionary Parliamentarian" p=37
  • Atalji is my guru.
    • Narasimha Rao declaring that in poetry, Vajpayee [who is also a Hindi poet] is his guru. Quoted from Elst, Koenraad (2001). Decolonizing the Hindu mind: Ideological development of Hindu revivalism. New Delhi: Rupa. p.169
  • I believe he has a sense of integrity...Relatively speaking he has a cleaner record than most politicians in office.
    • Shoba De, a columnist quoted in “Atal Bihari Vajpayee: Prime Minister of India" page=38
  • He was a person who could bring out the best in others. There are some leaders who bring out the worst in others. He brought out the best.
    • Arun Shourie. NDTV. "Let's Have Tea": When Atal Bihari Vajpayee Made A Point With 3 Words [1] August 17, 2018
  • It was the Congress leaders who instigated mobs in 1984 and got more than 3000 people killed. I must give due credit to RSS and the BJP for showing courage and protecting helpless Sikhs during those difficult days. No less a person than Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself intervened at a couple of places to help poor taxi drivers.
    • Khushwant Singh: 'Congress (I) is the Most Communal Party', Publik Asia, 16-11-1989. , quoted in Elst, Koenraad (2002). Who is a Hindu?: Hindu revivalist views of Animism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and other offshoots of Hinduism. ISBN 978-8185990743
  • Few people have noticed that there have been no communal riots in India since Vajpayee became prime minister. Remember the Congress' record of one major communal riot every few months? Meerut, Maliana, Bhagalpur, Moradabad, Mumbai. Riot after riot after riot. Nobody punished. No action taken against policemen and officials guilty of criminal administrative failure. So the absence of communal violence should have gone in Vajpayee's favour. It did not again - because perceptions have been more important than reality.
    • Tavleen Singh, “Atal has a PR problem” India Today. December 14, 1998. [2] Also quoted at Politics By Other Means: An Analysis of Human Rights Watch Reports on India, SAAG, Arvin Bahl (South Asia Analysis Group) SAAG, 2004 which is also published as a chapter in Rao, R. N., & Elst, K. (Editors) (2003). Gujarat after Godhra: Real violence, selective outrage. New Delhi: Har Anand Publications.
  • Vajpayee is as wishy-washy as Nehru was. I don't think he has any ideology.
  • This, my friends, is the Jaziya that non-Muslims pay in "free" India, one governed by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Hajpayee.
    • Varsha Bhosle: The Jaziya that Hindus yet pay [3]. See also [4] and Bhosle's definition: 'Hajpayee = Atal Bihari Vajpayee, for forcing non-Muslims to subsidise the Hajj' [5]
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