Starting Of Politics
The 1999 general elections were held in the aftermath of the Kargil operations. The BJP-led NDA won 303
seats out of the 543 seats in the Lok Sabha, securing a comfortable and stable majority. On 13 October
1999, Vajpayee took oath as Prime Minister of India for the third time.
A national crisis emerged in December 1999, when Indian Airlines flight IC 814 from Kathmandu to New Delhi
was hijacked by five terrorists and flown to Taliban-ruled Afghanistan. The hijackers made several demands
including the release of certain terrorists like Masood Azhar from prison. Under pressure, the government
ultimately caved in. Jaswant Singh, the Minister of External Affairs at the time, flew with the terrorists
to Afghanistan and exchanged them for the passengers.
Vajpayee with Russian president Vladimir Putin on 6 November 2001
In March 2000, Bill Clinton, the President of the United States, paid a state visit to India. This was the
first state visit to India by a U.S. president in 22 years, since President Jimmy Carter's visit in 1978.
President Clinton's visit was hailed as a significant milestone in relations between the two nations.
Vajpayee and Clinton had wide-ranging discussions on bilateral, regional and international developments.
The visit led to expansion in trade and economic ties between India and the United States. A vision
document on the future course of Indo-U.S. relations was signed during the visit.
Domestically, the BJP-led government was influenced by the RSS, but owing to its dependence on coalition
support, it was impossible for the BJP to push items like building the Ram Janmabhoomi temple in Ayodhya,
repealing Article 370 which gave a special status to the state of Kashmir, or enacting a uniform civil
code applicable to adherents of all religions. On 17 January 2000, there were reports of the RSS and some
BJP hard-liners threatening to restart the Jan Sangh, the precursor to the BJP, because of their
discontent over Vajpayee's rule. Former president of the Jan Sangh Balraj Madhok had written a letter to
the then-RSS chief Rajendra Singh for support. The BJP was, however, accused of "saffronising" the
official state education curriculum and apparatus, saffron being the colour of the RSS flag of the RSS,
and a symbol of the Hindu nationalism movement. Home Minister L. K. Advani and Human Resource Development
Minister Murli Manohar Joshi were indicted in the 1992 Babri Mosque demolition case for inciting a mob of
activists. Vajpayee himself came under public scrutiny owing to his controversial speech one day prior to
the mosque demolition.
These years were accompanied by infighting in the administration and confusion regarding the direction of
government. Vajpayee's weakening health was also a subject of public interest, and he underwent a major
knee-replacement surgery at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai to relieve intense pressure upon his legs.
In March 2001, the Tehelka group released a sting operation video named Operation West End which showed
BJP president Bangaru Laxman, senior army officers and NDA members accepting bribes from journalists
posing as agents and businessmen. The Defence Minister George Fernandes was forced to resign following the
Barak Missile scandal involving the botched supplies of coffins for the soldiers killed in Kargil, and the
findings of an inquiry commission that the government could have prevented the Kargil invasion.
Vajpayee initiated talks with Pakistan, and invited Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf to Agra for a
joint summit. President Musharraf was believed to be the principal architect of the Kargil War in India.
By accepting him as the President of Pakistan, Vajpayee chose to move forward leaving behind the Kargil
War. But after three days of much fanfare, which included Musharraf visiting his birthplace in Delhi, the
summit failed to achieve a breakthrough as President Musharraf declined to leave aside the issue of
2001 attack on Parliament
On 13 December 2001, a group of masked, armed men with fake IDs stormed Parliament House in Delhi. The
terrorists managed to kill several security guards, but the building was sealed off swiftly and security
forces cornered and killed the men who were later proven to be Pakistan nationals. Vajpayee ordered Indian
troops to mobilise for war, leading to an estimated 500,000 to 750,000 Indian soldiers positioned along
the international border between India and Pakistan. Pakistan responded by mobilising its own troops along
the border. A terrorist attack on an army garrison in Kashmir in May 2002 further escalated the situation.
As the threat of war between two nuclear capable countries and the consequent possibility of a nuclear
exchange loomed large, international diplomatic mediation focused on defusing the situation. In October
2002, both India and Pakistan announced that they would withdraw their troops from the border.
The Vajpayee administration brought in the Prevention of Terrorism Act in 2002. The act was aimed at
curbing terrorist threats by strengthening powers of government authorities to investigate and act against
suspects. It was passed in a joint session of the parliament, amidst concerns that the law would be
Another political disaster hit his government between December 2001 and March 2002: the VHP held the
Government hostage in a major standoff in Ayodhya over the Ram temple. On the 10th anniversary of the
destruction of the Babri mosque, the VHP wanted to perform a shila daan, or a ceremony laying the
foundation stone of the cherished temple at the disputed site. Thousands of VHP activists amassed and
threatened to overrun the site and forcibly perform the ceremony. A grave threat of not only communal
violence, but an outright breakdown of law and order owing to the defiance of the government by a
religious organisation hung over the nation. The incident, however, ended peacefully with a symbolic
handover of a stone at a different location 1 km away from the disputed site.
2002 Gujarat violence
In February 2002, a train filled with Hindu pilgrims returning to Gujarat from Ayodhya stopped in the town
of Godhra. A scuffle broke out between Hindu activists and Muslim residents, and the train was set on
fire, leading to the deaths of 59 people. The charred bodies of the victims were displayed in public in
the city of Ahmedabad, and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad called for a statewide strike in Gujarat. These
decisions stoked anti-Muslim sentiments Blaming Muslims for the deaths, rampaging Hindu mobs killed
thousands of Muslim men and women, destroying Muslim homes and places of worship. The violence raged for
more than two months, and more than 1,000 people died. Gujarat was being ruled by a BJP government, with
Narendra Modi as the chief minister. The state government was criticised for mishandling the situation. It
was accused of doing little to stop the violence, and even being complicit in encouraging it.
Vajpayee reportedly wanted to remove Modi, but was eventually prevailed upon by party members to not act
against him. He travelled to Gujarat, visiting Godhra, and Ahmedabad, the site of the most violent riots.
He announced financial aid for victims, and urged an end to the violence. While he condemned the violence,
he did not chastise Modi directly in public. When asked as to what would be his message to the chief
minister in the event of the riots having taking place, Vajpayee responded that Modi must follow raj
dharma, Hindi for ethical governance.
At the meeting of the BJP national executive in Goa in April 2002, Vajpayee's speech generated controversy
for its contents which included him saying: "Wherever Muslims live, they don’t like to live in
co-existence with others." The Prime Minister's Office stated that these remarks had been taken out of
context. Vajpayee was accused of doing nothing to stop the violence, and later admitted mistakes in
handling the events. K. R. Narayanan, then president of India, also blamed Vajpayee's government for
failing to quell the violence. After the BJP's defeat in the 2004 general elections, Vajpayee admitted
that not removing Modi had been a mistake.
In late 2002 and 2003 the government pushed through economic reforms. The country's GDP growth exceeded 7%
every year from 2003 to 2007, following three years of sub-5% growth. Increasing foreign investment,
modernisation of public and industrial infrastructure, the creation of jobs, a rising high-tech and IT
industry and urban modernisation and expansion improved the nation's international image. Good crop
harvests and strong industrial expansion also helped the economy.
The government reformed the tax system, increased the pace of reforms and pro-business initiatives, major
irrigation and housing schemes and so on. The political energies of the BJP shifted to the rising urban
middle-class and young people, who were positive and enthusiastic about the major economic expansion and
future of the country. He faced stiff opposition from other equally strong organisations in the Sangh
Parivar such as the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh and the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh. However, he continued with his
aggressive economic reform policy.
In May 2003, he announced before the parliament that he would make one last effort to achieve peace with
Pakistan. The announcement ended a period of 16 months, following the 2001 attack on the Indian
parliament, during which India had severed diplomatic ties with Pakistan. Although diplomatic relations
did not pick up immediately, visits were exchanged by high-level officials and the military standoff
ended. The Pakistani President and Pakistani politicians, civil and religious leaders hailed this
initiative as did the leaders of the United States, Europe and much of the world. In July 2003, Prime
Minister Vajpayee visited China, and met with various Chinese leaders. He recognised Tibet as a part of
China, which was welcomed by the Chinese leadership, and which, in the following year, recognised Sikkim
as part of India. China–India relations improved greatly in the following years.
Vajpayee's government introduced many domestic economic and infrastructural reforms, including encouraging
the private sector and foreign investments, reducing governmental waste, encouraging research and
development and privatisation of some government owned corporations. Among Vajpayee's projects were the
National Highways Development Project and Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana. In 2001, the Vajpayee
government launched the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan campaign, aimed at improving the quality of education in
primary and secondary schools