Atal Bihari Vajpayee is one of the most revered leaders of India's political scene. Known for his exceptional oratory skills, Vajpayee was a poet, reader and a visionary. When he passed away this year on August 16, he left an unfillable void in the political spectrum of India. Today, on December 25, Sadaiv Atal, a memorial of former prime minister was also opened and dedicated to the nation. On the eve of his 94th birth anniversary, DH brings you 15 things you should know about the charismatic leader:
1. In 1942, Vajpayee participated in the Quit India Movement. He was arrested, along with elder brother Prem, for 23 days by the British.
2. He and his father went to the same college (DAV College in Kanpur) together for their Post Graduation and LLB degrees, respectively. They even shared the same room in the hostel.
3. Before joining politics, Vajpayee was a journalist and worked for newspapers like Rashtradharma of RSS ideologue Deendayal Upadhyay, Panchjanya (the RSS mouthpiece in Hindi) and others.
4. Before joining Rashtriya Swayam Sewak Sangh (RSS), Atal was inclined towards communism and after being influenced by Babasaheb Apte, he joined RSS in 1939
5. In the year 1957, he was elected to Second Lok Sabha. From 1975-77, he was arrested along with other opposition leaders during the internal emergency.
6. In 1957, impressed by Vajpayee's speech in Parliament, Jawaharlal Nehru had predicted: “This young man one day will become the country's Prime Minister.”
7. And he did! Vajpayee was a three-time prime minister and is the only non-Congress PM who had completed full five years tenure from 1999-2004.
8. In 1977, he was the first person to deliver a speech in Hindi in the United Nations General Assembly. He was the country's External Affairs Minister then.
9. Vajpayee was elected to India's Lok Sabha a record nine times and elected to the Rajya Sabha two times.
10. Just a month after assuming office in 1998, India conducted a series of nuclear tests in Pokhran, making the country a nuclear state.
12. Vajpayee announced his retirement from politics on December 29, 2005.
13. He was also known as the "Bhishma Pitamah" of Indian politics, owing to his persona that commanded the respect of even the opposing party members.
14. Vajpayee was a poet at heart and even released two albums with Jagjit Singh featuring his popular poems: Nayi Disha (1999) and Samvedna (2002)
15. In 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conferred India's highest civilian honor, the Bharat Ratna award, upon Vajpayee.