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Overview:

The office of the prime minister, who heads the federal government, consists of his advisors and secretaries. An advisor, a national security advisor, a communications advisor, a principal secretary and other secretaries make up the team. Several councils and committees bring together ministers, bureaucrats and eminent personalities with expertise in the relevant areas to brainstorm policies and legislations. Among them are the National Advisory Council headed by the chief of the Congress party and chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, Sonia Gandhi; the National Economic Advisory Council under the chairmanship of C. Rangarajan, who is a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India; and a Prime Minister’s National Council on Nutritional Challenges, headed by the prime minister himself.

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History:

In 1958, Vice President S Radhakrishnan wrote a request for a meeting with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and asked his attendant to pass it on to the prime minister’s secretary. The attendant approached the prime minister directly with the letter, and Radhakrishnan wrote an apology, to which Nehru replied: “It is true that the chaprasi [attendant] came to me. But what is wrong in this? In fact, it was the quickest way of reaching me. It never struck me that something unusual had happened. Please do not worry about these minor matters.” The letter is part of one of the volumes of The Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, a compilation of official correspondence and notes written by India’s first prime minister. Access does not come this easy these days, with the prime minister assisted by some of the shrewdest of secretaries. The rise of Indira Gandhi from a political weakling to a formidable prime minister has been credited to her astute secretary, the lawyer-diplomat PN Haksar. Many blame him for preparing the ground for the infamous Emergency that Gandhi imposed on the country. More recently, when he came to power in 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is said to have held on to TKA Nair as principal secretary, although he had served Singh’s predecessors Atal Bihari Vajpayee and IK Gujral, both of whom were elected to the office as leaders of other parties. Nair’s intimate knowledge of the bureaucracy was a prized asset and Singh persisted with him even without the approval of his party chief, Sonia Gandhi. Even when Pulok Chatterjee, a Gandhi loyalist, replaced Nair, Singh retained him as his advisor.

 

more
What it Does:

The Prime Minister has traditionally held the additional charges of Departments of Space and Atomic Energy and Ministry of Personnel, Grievances and Pensions. In June 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also handed the reins of the Finance Ministry after the resignation of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. All the other ministries approach the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to seek the prime minister’s approval when certain important decisions fall beyond their purview. These include decisions pertaining to policies, defense and the cabinet secretariat. Since 2009, the PMO also has a delivery-monitoring unit, which keeps tabs on the progress of various programs and initiatives taken up by various ministries, and ensures their timely implementation.

 

Autonomous/Attached Bodies

 

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

The Indian Space Research Organisation, with several communication satellites and satellite launch vehicles (rockets) to its credit, is the country’s space agency. The ISRO and the other relevant research facilities — Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL), North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NE-SAC) and Semi-Conductor Laboratory (SCL) — are part of the Department of Space headed by the Prime Minister. The ISRO chairman is also the secretary, department of space. In October 2008, the ISRO, under former chairman G Madhavan Nair, won praise from all quarters when it successfully launched Chandrayaan-I to probe the moon from space. However, when the two-year mission was called off half away after the ISRO lost contact with the lunar probe, reports emerged that scientists had underestimated the temperatures on its orbit around the moon and that with inadequate protection it had succumbed to the heat. A deal that Antrix, the marketing wing of ISRO, signed with a private company, Devas, selling rights to a satellite-based mobile phone system kicked up another furor. Nair, during whose tenure the deal was signed, was accused of not keeping the government in the loop about the developments and flouting guidelines and overstepping his mandate. He wrote to the prime minister demanding a fair investigation. Scientists in the organization attributed this to the present chairman K Radhakrishnan’s desperate attempt to undermine Nair’s legacy and cover up his own failings. 

 

Atomic Energy Commission

The Atomic Energy Commission was in the thick of the action when the United States and India inked the civilian nuclear energy deal in 2008. Anil Kakodkar, then-chairman of the commission, was a technical advisor to the government during the negotiations that led to the deal. The chairman of the commission, which was set up in 1948, is also the secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy. Among the members of the commission are top nuclear scientists and bureaucrats, with the Prime Minister’s Office being well represented through the minister of state in the PMO, the national security advisor and the principal secretary to the prime minister. The commission charts out the nuclear energy policy of the government.

more
Where Does the Money Go:

About 71% ($3.8 million) of the budget for the fiscal year 2012-13 has been set aside for employee salaries, overtime allowances and medical treatment. Estimates for travel (both foreign and domestic) expenses and office expenses are around 12% each. The prime minister’s discretionary fund gets $45,250 from the budget. It is also worth noting that of the 120 positions that have not been filled, 68 are “peons” and “lower-division clerks.”

more
Controversies:

Padma Bhushan for Chatwal

Hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, in 2010, as an acknowledgement of the role he is believed to have played in the signing of the nuclear energy deal with the U.S. He is said to have used his close ties with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lobby for the deal among the Democrats. Chatwal’s nomination for the award drew criticism as Chatwal has had two cases of bank fraud filed against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the 1990s.

 

Next, a photo from the opening of a Chatwal hotel in Kochi of Chatwal and TKA Nair, then principal secretary to the prime minister, with Nair’s arm around Ursa Philbin, a former Slovenian model and an assistant to Chatwal’s son Vikram, surfaced in the media. Nair was a member of the awards committee, and a year later, Pulok Chatterjee took over as the principal secretary, although Nair remains in the PMO as the advisor to the prime minister.

 

Chuck de Chatwal! (by Aditya Sinha, New Indian Express)

Of a Science Called Manmohanology (by Smita Gupta, Outlook)

 

 

Is the PMO too Weak?

A standard criticism of Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party in the parliament, has been that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is only the figurehead of the government and he takes orders from his party chief, Sonia Gandhi. For the Hindu nationalist BJP leadership, this alleged arrangement is made worse by the fact that Gandhi was born in Italy. The lack of leadership in the government has also been cited by the corporates as the reason for its indecisiveness and why the government is dragging its feet on reforms necessary for a healthy economic growth.

 

Advani Slams PM, Says 10 Janpath Controls Him (by Ambarish Mishra, Times of India)

Manmohan Singh – India’s Saviour or Just ‘The Underachiever’? (by Andrew Buncombe, The Independent)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Give Private Sector Executives More Autonomy

Traditionally, in India, there has been a clear demarcation between the private sector and the government. The government has been the bureaucrat’s domain with his rules and procedures, the bulk of which were handed down by the British. The UPA government has gone outside the system and sought to tap the expertise of successful private sector people. Former heads of companies now head projects and committees in the government. Among them are Sam Pitroda, chairperson of the National Knowledge Commission; Nandan Nilekani, former Infosys CEO and now the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India; S Ramadorai, vice chairman, Tata Consultancy Services, and advisor to the prime minister in the National Skill Development Council; Arun Maira, former India head of the Boston Consulting Group and member of the Planning Commission; and R Raghu Raman, former CEO of Mahindra Special Services Group and head of the national intelligence database project, NATGRID. However, they have been a frustrated lot, often running into bureaucratic red tape. In March, they wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding greater autonomy for themselves and suggesting changes in the workings of the government to make them more result-oriented.  Pitroda summed up the group’s frustrations. “This system (what we have now) was designed by the British raj to maintain status quo,” he recently told the Indian Express. “It is not for faster development, something that we need today.” The prime minister has asked his principal secretary, Pulok Chatterjee, to look into the suggestions.

 

CEOs Trapped in Gov Tap Pitroda for PMO Bailout (by P. Vaidyanathan Iyer, Financial Express)

more
Debate:

The Lokpal Bill

In early 2011, anti-corruption protests led by veteran activist Anna Hazare took to the streets. They demanded a Lokpal, an ombudsman, backed by a legislation that gives wide-ranging powers to check corruption in government. The government agreed to table a Lokpal bill in Parliament to pave the way for the constitution of a Lokpal but refused to bring the Prime Minister within its orbit. Eventually, when the Parliament passed the Lokpal bill in December 2011, it was a watered-down version of what Hazare and his supporters had fought for. While the prime minister too came under the Lokpal’s watch, matters related to external affairs, national security and atomic energy remained out of its purview.

 

Lokpal should have Jurisdiction over Prime Minister

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are the bodies that recommend and carry out investigation civil of servants’ misuse of their office for personal gains. However, both these organizations are part of the Department of Personnel and Training — a department of the Ministry of Personnel, Grievances and Pensions, where the prime minister is in charge. Hence, it is impossible for officers of the CVC and CBI to conduct a free and fair investigation of complaints, if any, against the prime minister. The anti-corruption wing of the CBI, the activists say, should report to the Lokpal, not the prime minister.

 

Lokpal Bill and the Prime Minister (by Anil Divan, The Hindu)

Why an Honest PM Scared of Being Probed by Lokpal, Asks Hazare Team (Headlines Today)

 

Lokpal should not have Jurisdiction over Prime Minister

The opponents of a Lokpal with such sweeping powers fear a parallel government and its misuse by other countries to destabilize the government. They argue that since the prime minister is not immune from prosecution under ordinary laws such as the Prevention of Corruption Act, there is no need for the office to be brought under the Lokpal.

 

Prime Minister Should Be Out of Lokpal Till He Demits Office: Sibal (The Hindu)

The Lokpal Debate: Keep Prime Minister Out of Lokpal Ambit (by BG Deshmukh, DNA)

more
Former Directors:

Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998 to 2004)

Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as Prime Minister of India three times between 1996 and 2004, though his only full term was from 1998 to 2004. During this time, he also held the cabinet rank of Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.

Born in 1924 in Madhya Pradesh, Vajpayee was a political science post-graduate student in 1942 when he joined the Quit India movement. However, he went back to school before becoming a politician, studying law and eventually becoming a journalist. By 1951, he had returned to politics, founding one party, the Jana Sangh (which existed through the late 1970s), and then another, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), serving as the latter’s president for its first half-decade.

Through the coming years he would also serve as foreign minister and elected parliamentarian, from which post he was able to continue strengthening the BJP until its turn in power from the 1990s.

During his first, brief term in the early 1990s, Vajpayee opposed the beginnings of India’s liberalization. The Congress party spearheaded these economic reforms –a departure from the country’s Nehruvian socialist roots. So Vajpayee’s opposition may have been politically expedient or rooted in the party’s nationalism. Either way, the BJP has since come to advocate the same pro-business policies that were at the heart of the reforms.

The BJP’s time in power, with Vajpayee at the helm, represented an unusual interlude in the decades of Congress rule, though parts of the experience left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Indians. 

Vajpayee’s reign was marked by a significant increase in tensions between India and Pakistan. In May 1998, Vajpayee’s coalition government dramatically stepped up tensions with Pakistan by testing a nuclear weapon at Pokhran, in Rajasthan. In so doing, India skirted multiple international agreements, although it has since received unique exemption to retain a nuclear weapon. The tests led Islamabad to follow suit, testing its own nuclear weapons the same month. Although the following year saw Vajpayee and then-Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif sign a history agreement to halt nuclear testing – also marking the first trip to Pakistan by a sitting Indian prime minister in a decade – much of the momentum was subsequently lost.

A battle over Kashmir erupted in May and June 1999 resulting in two months of outright conflict in the mountains around Kargil, the third time that the two neighbors have gone to war.
 
Despite the conservatism of his party, Vajpayee remains known for making significant attempts at bridge building with Pakistan.
 
Vajpayee was also in power during one of India’s most notorious incident of sectarian violence. Subsequent investigations have proven connections between February 2002’s anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and members of the state government of BJP stalwart and Chief Minister Narendra Modi. That violence resulted in some 2,500 deaths. However, the moderate Vajpayee has long been seen as ideologically far removed from the fundamentalist Modi, albeit still within the fold of the BJP – a party that has since raised Modi’s stock, including floating the possibility of his candidacy for prime minister.

Despite his championing of the fundamentalist party, however, Vajpayee continues to be known for a relatively liberal worldview, having also raised two adopted daughters. He retired from active politics in 2005 in a surprise announcement, but the party he created and brought to power has since floundered.
 

Indeed, almost a decade after his retirement, Vajpayee is widely considered the BJP’s most successful leader to date. Vajpayee’s public persona is generally credited with making the conservative BJP politically viable and publicly palatable.

 

Official Biography

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Founded: 1947
Annual Budget: $5.3 million (2012-13)
Employees: 408 (of 528 sanctioned positions)
Prime Minister’s Office
  • Latest News
Bookmark and Share
Overview:

The office of the prime minister, who heads the federal government, consists of his advisors and secretaries. An advisor, a national security advisor, a communications advisor, a principal secretary and other secretaries make up the team. Several councils and committees bring together ministers, bureaucrats and eminent personalities with expertise in the relevant areas to brainstorm policies and legislations. Among them are the National Advisory Council headed by the chief of the Congress party and chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, Sonia Gandhi; the National Economic Advisory Council under the chairmanship of C. Rangarajan, who is a former governor of the Reserve Bank of India; and a Prime Minister’s National Council on Nutritional Challenges, headed by the prime minister himself.

more
History:

In 1958, Vice President S Radhakrishnan wrote a request for a meeting with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and asked his attendant to pass it on to the prime minister’s secretary. The attendant approached the prime minister directly with the letter, and Radhakrishnan wrote an apology, to which Nehru replied: “It is true that the chaprasi [attendant] came to me. But what is wrong in this? In fact, it was the quickest way of reaching me. It never struck me that something unusual had happened. Please do not worry about these minor matters.” The letter is part of one of the volumes of The Selected Works of Jawaharlal Nehru, a compilation of official correspondence and notes written by India’s first prime minister. Access does not come this easy these days, with the prime minister assisted by some of the shrewdest of secretaries. The rise of Indira Gandhi from a political weakling to a formidable prime minister has been credited to her astute secretary, the lawyer-diplomat PN Haksar. Many blame him for preparing the ground for the infamous Emergency that Gandhi imposed on the country. More recently, when he came to power in 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is said to have held on to TKA Nair as principal secretary, although he had served Singh’s predecessors Atal Bihari Vajpayee and IK Gujral, both of whom were elected to the office as leaders of other parties. Nair’s intimate knowledge of the bureaucracy was a prized asset and Singh persisted with him even without the approval of his party chief, Sonia Gandhi. Even when Pulok Chatterjee, a Gandhi loyalist, replaced Nair, Singh retained him as his advisor.

 

more
What it Does:

The Prime Minister has traditionally held the additional charges of Departments of Space and Atomic Energy and Ministry of Personnel, Grievances and Pensions. In June 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was also handed the reins of the Finance Ministry after the resignation of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. All the other ministries approach the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to seek the prime minister’s approval when certain important decisions fall beyond their purview. These include decisions pertaining to policies, defense and the cabinet secretariat. Since 2009, the PMO also has a delivery-monitoring unit, which keeps tabs on the progress of various programs and initiatives taken up by various ministries, and ensures their timely implementation.

 

Autonomous/Attached Bodies

 

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO)

The Indian Space Research Organisation, with several communication satellites and satellite launch vehicles (rockets) to its credit, is the country’s space agency. The ISRO and the other relevant research facilities — Physical Research Laboratory (PRL), National Atmospheric Research Laboratory (NARL), North Eastern Space Applications Centre (NE-SAC) and Semi-Conductor Laboratory (SCL) — are part of the Department of Space headed by the Prime Minister. The ISRO chairman is also the secretary, department of space. In October 2008, the ISRO, under former chairman G Madhavan Nair, won praise from all quarters when it successfully launched Chandrayaan-I to probe the moon from space. However, when the two-year mission was called off half away after the ISRO lost contact with the lunar probe, reports emerged that scientists had underestimated the temperatures on its orbit around the moon and that with inadequate protection it had succumbed to the heat. A deal that Antrix, the marketing wing of ISRO, signed with a private company, Devas, selling rights to a satellite-based mobile phone system kicked up another furor. Nair, during whose tenure the deal was signed, was accused of not keeping the government in the loop about the developments and flouting guidelines and overstepping his mandate. He wrote to the prime minister demanding a fair investigation. Scientists in the organization attributed this to the present chairman K Radhakrishnan’s desperate attempt to undermine Nair’s legacy and cover up his own failings. 

 

Atomic Energy Commission

The Atomic Energy Commission was in the thick of the action when the United States and India inked the civilian nuclear energy deal in 2008. Anil Kakodkar, then-chairman of the commission, was a technical advisor to the government during the negotiations that led to the deal. The chairman of the commission, which was set up in 1948, is also the secretary in the Department of Atomic Energy. Among the members of the commission are top nuclear scientists and bureaucrats, with the Prime Minister’s Office being well represented through the minister of state in the PMO, the national security advisor and the principal secretary to the prime minister. The commission charts out the nuclear energy policy of the government.

more
Where Does the Money Go:

About 71% ($3.8 million) of the budget for the fiscal year 2012-13 has been set aside for employee salaries, overtime allowances and medical treatment. Estimates for travel (both foreign and domestic) expenses and office expenses are around 12% each. The prime minister’s discretionary fund gets $45,250 from the budget. It is also worth noting that of the 120 positions that have not been filled, 68 are “peons” and “lower-division clerks.”

more
Controversies:

Padma Bhushan for Chatwal

Hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal was awarded the Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award, in 2010, as an acknowledgement of the role he is believed to have played in the signing of the nuclear energy deal with the U.S. He is said to have used his close ties with former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to lobby for the deal among the Democrats. Chatwal’s nomination for the award drew criticism as Chatwal has had two cases of bank fraud filed against him by the Central Bureau of Investigation in the 1990s.

 

Next, a photo from the opening of a Chatwal hotel in Kochi of Chatwal and TKA Nair, then principal secretary to the prime minister, with Nair’s arm around Ursa Philbin, a former Slovenian model and an assistant to Chatwal’s son Vikram, surfaced in the media. Nair was a member of the awards committee, and a year later, Pulok Chatterjee took over as the principal secretary, although Nair remains in the PMO as the advisor to the prime minister.

 

Chuck de Chatwal! (by Aditya Sinha, New Indian Express)

Of a Science Called Manmohanology (by Smita Gupta, Outlook)

 

 

Is the PMO too Weak?

A standard criticism of Bharatiya Janata Party, the main opposition party in the parliament, has been that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is only the figurehead of the government and he takes orders from his party chief, Sonia Gandhi. For the Hindu nationalist BJP leadership, this alleged arrangement is made worse by the fact that Gandhi was born in Italy. The lack of leadership in the government has also been cited by the corporates as the reason for its indecisiveness and why the government is dragging its feet on reforms necessary for a healthy economic growth.

 

Advani Slams PM, Says 10 Janpath Controls Him (by Ambarish Mishra, Times of India)

Manmohan Singh – India’s Saviour or Just ‘The Underachiever’? (by Andrew Buncombe, The Independent)

more
Suggested Reforms:

Give Private Sector Executives More Autonomy

Traditionally, in India, there has been a clear demarcation between the private sector and the government. The government has been the bureaucrat’s domain with his rules and procedures, the bulk of which were handed down by the British. The UPA government has gone outside the system and sought to tap the expertise of successful private sector people. Former heads of companies now head projects and committees in the government. Among them are Sam Pitroda, chairperson of the National Knowledge Commission; Nandan Nilekani, former Infosys CEO and now the head of the Unique Identification Authority of India; S Ramadorai, vice chairman, Tata Consultancy Services, and advisor to the prime minister in the National Skill Development Council; Arun Maira, former India head of the Boston Consulting Group and member of the Planning Commission; and R Raghu Raman, former CEO of Mahindra Special Services Group and head of the national intelligence database project, NATGRID. However, they have been a frustrated lot, often running into bureaucratic red tape. In March, they wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding greater autonomy for themselves and suggesting changes in the workings of the government to make them more result-oriented.  Pitroda summed up the group’s frustrations. “This system (what we have now) was designed by the British raj to maintain status quo,” he recently told the Indian Express. “It is not for faster development, something that we need today.” The prime minister has asked his principal secretary, Pulok Chatterjee, to look into the suggestions.

 

CEOs Trapped in Gov Tap Pitroda for PMO Bailout (by P. Vaidyanathan Iyer, Financial Express)

more
Debate:

The Lokpal Bill

In early 2011, anti-corruption protests led by veteran activist Anna Hazare took to the streets. They demanded a Lokpal, an ombudsman, backed by a legislation that gives wide-ranging powers to check corruption in government. The government agreed to table a Lokpal bill in Parliament to pave the way for the constitution of a Lokpal but refused to bring the Prime Minister within its orbit. Eventually, when the Parliament passed the Lokpal bill in December 2011, it was a watered-down version of what Hazare and his supporters had fought for. While the prime minister too came under the Lokpal’s watch, matters related to external affairs, national security and atomic energy remained out of its purview.

 

Lokpal should have Jurisdiction over Prime Minister

The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) are the bodies that recommend and carry out investigation civil of servants’ misuse of their office for personal gains. However, both these organizations are part of the Department of Personnel and Training — a department of the Ministry of Personnel, Grievances and Pensions, where the prime minister is in charge. Hence, it is impossible for officers of the CVC and CBI to conduct a free and fair investigation of complaints, if any, against the prime minister. The anti-corruption wing of the CBI, the activists say, should report to the Lokpal, not the prime minister.

 

Lokpal Bill and the Prime Minister (by Anil Divan, The Hindu)

Why an Honest PM Scared of Being Probed by Lokpal, Asks Hazare Team (Headlines Today)

 

Lokpal should not have Jurisdiction over Prime Minister

The opponents of a Lokpal with such sweeping powers fear a parallel government and its misuse by other countries to destabilize the government. They argue that since the prime minister is not immune from prosecution under ordinary laws such as the Prevention of Corruption Act, there is no need for the office to be brought under the Lokpal.

 

Prime Minister Should Be Out of Lokpal Till He Demits Office: Sibal (The Hindu)

The Lokpal Debate: Keep Prime Minister Out of Lokpal Ambit (by BG Deshmukh, DNA)

more
Former Directors:

Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1998 to 2004)

Atal Bihari Vajpayee served as Prime Minister of India three times between 1996 and 2004, though his only full term was from 1998 to 2004. During this time, he also held the cabinet rank of Minister of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.

Born in 1924 in Madhya Pradesh, Vajpayee was a political science post-graduate student in 1942 when he joined the Quit India movement. However, he went back to school before becoming a politician, studying law and eventually becoming a journalist. By 1951, he had returned to politics, founding one party, the Jana Sangh (which existed through the late 1970s), and then another, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), serving as the latter’s president for its first half-decade.

Through the coming years he would also serve as foreign minister and elected parliamentarian, from which post he was able to continue strengthening the BJP until its turn in power from the 1990s.

During his first, brief term in the early 1990s, Vajpayee opposed the beginnings of India’s liberalization. The Congress party spearheaded these economic reforms –a departure from the country’s Nehruvian socialist roots. So Vajpayee’s opposition may have been politically expedient or rooted in the party’s nationalism. Either way, the BJP has since come to advocate the same pro-business policies that were at the heart of the reforms.

The BJP’s time in power, with Vajpayee at the helm, represented an unusual interlude in the decades of Congress rule, though parts of the experience left a bitter taste in the mouths of many Indians. 

Vajpayee’s reign was marked by a significant increase in tensions between India and Pakistan. In May 1998, Vajpayee’s coalition government dramatically stepped up tensions with Pakistan by testing a nuclear weapon at Pokhran, in Rajasthan. In so doing, India skirted multiple international agreements, although it has since received unique exemption to retain a nuclear weapon. The tests led Islamabad to follow suit, testing its own nuclear weapons the same month. Although the following year saw Vajpayee and then-Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif sign a history agreement to halt nuclear testing – also marking the first trip to Pakistan by a sitting Indian prime minister in a decade – much of the momentum was subsequently lost.

A battle over Kashmir erupted in May and June 1999 resulting in two months of outright conflict in the mountains around Kargil, the third time that the two neighbors have gone to war.
 
Despite the conservatism of his party, Vajpayee remains known for making significant attempts at bridge building with Pakistan.
 
Vajpayee was also in power during one of India’s most notorious incident of sectarian violence. Subsequent investigations have proven connections between February 2002’s anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and members of the state government of BJP stalwart and Chief Minister Narendra Modi. That violence resulted in some 2,500 deaths. However, the moderate Vajpayee has long been seen as ideologically far removed from the fundamentalist Modi, albeit still within the fold of the BJP – a party that has since raised Modi’s stock, including floating the possibility of his candidacy for prime minister.

Despite his championing of the fundamentalist party, however, Vajpayee continues to be known for a relatively liberal worldview, having also raised two adopted daughters. He retired from active politics in 2005 in a surprise announcement, but the party he created and brought to power has since floundered.
 

Indeed, almost a decade after his retirement, Vajpayee is widely considered the BJP’s most successful leader to date. Vajpayee’s public persona is generally credited with making the conservative BJP politically viable and publicly palatable.

 

Official Biography

more

Comments

Leave a comment

Founded: 1947
Annual Budget: $5.3 million (2012-13)
Employees: 408 (of 528 sanctioned positions)
Prime Minister’s Office
  • Latest News