New Delhi, Aug 16: Atal Bihari Vajpayee was sworn in as the 10th Prime Minister of India, but the BJP failed to muster enough support from other parties to obtain a majority. He resigned after 13 daysVajpayee when it became clear that he could not garner a majority. His first term was short-lived.
But the first non-Congress Prime Minister of the country faced major challenges in the second (1998-1999) and third term (1999-2004) of his prime ministership. Kargil battle occurred in the 2nd term and the third term witnessed hijack of Indian Airlines in December 1999, attack on Parliament in 2001 and communal violence in BJP-ruled state Gujarat in 2002.
Kargil battle in June 1999:
The infiltration of Pakistani soldiers disguised as Kashmiri militants into positions on the Indian side of the LOC led to 'Operation Vijay' by the Indian Army in 1999. According to Indian official figures, 527 defence personnel were martyred, 1,363 wounded. However, The Pakistan Army Chief Gen Pervez Musharraf claimed that 1,600 Indian soldiers had been killed.
Vajpayee government set up an inquiry into its causes and to analyse perceived Indian intelligence failures. The committee head by strategic affairs analyst K. Subrahmanyam
led to a large-scale restructuring of Indian Intelligence. But, the report was criticised by media for its perceived avoidance of assigning specific responsibility for failures over detecting the Kargil intrusions.
[Also read: RIP AB Vajpayee: Bhishma Pitamah of Indian politics]
Hijack of Indian Airlines in December 1999:
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 extreme pressure, then Jaswant Singh Minister for External Affairs flew with the terrorists to Afghanistan and exchanged them for the passengers.
The attack on Parliament in 2001:
On 13 December 2001, a group of masked, armed men with fake IDs stormed the 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. Although the Government of Pakistan officially condemned the attack, Indian intelligence reports pointed to a conspiracy rooted in Pakistan.
2002 Communal violence in Gujarat:
Managing BJP's image in the aftermath of the Gujarat riots in 2002, indeed, was a big challenge to the Vajpayee government. Hindu-Muslim violence in Gujarat, when Narendra Modi was chief minister, claimed more than 1,000 lives. The Indian media wanted to know Vajpayee's message for the chief minister. In controlled displeasure, Vajpayee stated that Modi should 'follow his Rajdharma'. He explained that Rajdharma was a meaningful term, and for somebody in a position of power, it meant not discriminating among the higher and lower classes of society or people of any religion. He officially condemned Godhra carnage and Gujarat communal violence.