Atal Bihari Vajpayee, three-time Prime Minister of India and one of the country’s most respected politicians, has died. The announcement was made by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences or AIIMS, where the 93-year-old was being treated by a team of doctors for nine weeks.
The centre has announced a seven-day mourning throughout India and state funeral for the former prime minister. Governments in Delhi, Punjab and Uttarakhand have announced a holiday on Friday as a mark of respect to Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Mr Vajpayee, the BJP’s tallest leader, was admitted to hospital on June 11 with a urinary tract infection and chest congestion.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited the hospital twice in 24 hours and top politicians from across parties arrived as the former prime minister’s health worsened on Wednesday.
“Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems. Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today,” the statement by AIIMS said.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee died at 5.05 pm.
“He lived for the nation and served it assiduously for decades,” PM Modi tweeted soon after, describing his death the end of an era.
A meeting of the Union Cabinet has been convened to mourn the former prime minister.
Congress president Rahul Gandhi said India had lost a “great son” “loved and respected by millions”.
The BJP patriarch had announced his retirement from electoral politics at a public meeting in Mumbai back in 2005. It wasn’t a surprise to many. He had not been keeping well.
Since 2009, the veteran politician had largely been confined to his home on Krishna Menon Marg in the heart of Delhi, away from public life due to his failing health.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was considered the gold standard of leadership in the BJP and had admirers even among rival parties. His birthday — December 25 — is celebrated as Good Governance Day.
Since morning, BJP chief Amit Shah and Union ministers Rajnath Singh, JP Nadda and Venkaiah Naidu and several other leaders had been visiting the hospital.
At the BJP headquarters in Delhi, decorations put up for Independence Day celebrations on Wednesday were taken down as a somber note took over.
LK Advani, one of Mr Vajpayee’s closest colleagues and his deputy in the NDA government from 1998 to 2004, was among the visitors.
“To me, Atalji was more than a senior colleague- in fact he was my closest friend for over 65 year,” Mr Advani later said in a statement.