It was Vajpayee's sway that brought new allies to BJP in 1998 as it was being considered a virtual untouchable in the view of its rightist leanings, especially after demolition of Babri Masjid in 1992.
An orator par excellence and known for taking bold initiatives and making attempt to bridge Indo-Pak differences, Vajpayee reached far beyond BJP's nationalist political agenda.
As India's longest serving Prime Minister outside Congress party, Vajpayee is often described as the moderate face of BJP. His detractors used to call him a "mask" of the RSS.
Undeterred by party hawks who accused him of embarking on a misdirected visit to Pakistan in 1999, Vajpayee rode triumphantly into Lahore aboard a bus on an initiative that was pursued by his successor Manmohan Singh.
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. But his tenure as PM lasted only 13 days for lack of required numbers in the Lok Sabha.
The lack of a stable majority ended his second stint as the PM after 13 months in 1999. 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.