Vajpayee became politically active as a teenager and was briefly jailed by the British colonial administration. Though initially attracted to communism, he became disillusioned when the communists supported the creation of Pakistan in the 1940s. After dropping out of law school, he became editor of a publication run by the Hindu-nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a self-defense force created in 1925 to protect Hindus in riots and to promote Hindu culture.
First elected to parliament in 1957 as a member of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, a forerunner of the BJP, Vajpayee served as foreign minister in the late 1970s and earned a reputation for improving relations with Pakistan and China. He helped found the BJP in 1980, but his moderate views were overpowered by Hindu hardliners. He was one of the few Hindu leaders to speak out against the 1992 destruction of the historic Muslim mosque at Ayodhya. Vajpayee was sworn in as prime minister in May 1996 but was in office only 13 days, after failing to attract support from other parties. In early 1998 he again became prime minister after the BJP won a record number of seats but was forced to make a shaky alliance with regional parties, many of which opposed Hindu nationalism. Although he was considered a moderate, after India tested several nuclear weapons in 1996 he assumed a defiant posture in the face of Western condemnation and U.S. and Japanese economic sanctions. He had earlier been praised for his conciliatory gestures toward India’s Muslim minority, but relations with Pakistan deteriorated following the nuclear tests.
“Vajpayee, Atal Bihari” Encyclopædia Britannica
Recipient of U Thant Peace Award from Sri Chinmoy: The Peace Meditation at the United Nations