An orator par excellence and known for taking bold initiatives, notable being the attempt to bridge differences in Indo-Pak relations, Vajpayee, who is lauded as a statesman politician, went far beyond his BJP's nationalist political agenda.

It was Vajpayee's sway that brought in 1998 new allies to BJP, once considered a virtual untouchable in view of its rightist leanings, especially after demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.

His detractors used to call him a 'mask' of the RSS, his benign smile of moderation hiding his party's links with Hindu groups. Undeterred by party hawks who accused him of embarking on a misdirected visit to Pakistan in 1999, Vajpayee, who is India's longest serving prime minister outside Congress party, rode triumphantly into Lahore aboard a bus, on an initiative that was pursued by his successor Manmohan Singh.
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Vajpayee's diplomatic breakthrough was hailed as the dawn of a new era in Indo-Pak relations. But it was another story that Pakistan army undertook a covert operation to send its troops into Kargil that led to a limited conflict that Pakistan lost. Vajpayee first became Prime Minister in 1996 after four decades in opposition. He lasted only 13 days as prime minister for lack of numbers.

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The lack of a stable majority ended his second stint in power from 1998 after 13 months. His government collapsed after AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa withdrew her support from the coalition. He was reelected in 1999 at the head of a more stable coalition that lasted its full term.

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