PM, BJP leaders greet Vajpayee on birthday

Last Updated: Tue, Dec 25, 2012 10:50 hrs

New Delhi, Dec 25 (IANS) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and BJP leaders Tuesday greeted the ailing and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on his 88th birthday.

The prime minister was among the first to reach the residence of Vajpayee in central Delhi. BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Nitin Gadkari, Sushma Swaraj and Rajnath Singh were among those who greeted him.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan too greeted the former prime minister.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) organised a blood donation camp at the Talkotara Stadium here to mark the occasion.

Vajpayee was born into the family of a school teacher Dec 25, 1924, in the erstwhile princely state of Gwalior, now in Madhya Pradesh.

One of the founder leaders of the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, the BJP's predecessor, Vajpayee was India's foreign minister when the Janata Party came to power in 1977.

He was prime minister for 13 days in 1996, then for 13 months from March 1998 and again for a third time from October 1999 to May 2004 when the Congress ousted the BJP. He did not contest the 2009 Lok Sabha election.

Even Vajpayee's political foes see him one of India's most experienced politicians with a mass base.

Informed sources said his health remains a cause of concern and he is often confined to a wheelchair.

Party leaders refused to speak about Vajpayee's health.

An associate of Vajpayee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said he recognizes people who have had long association with him.

Vajpayee, he said, had "age-related problems".

Another associate said that party leaders pay only "courtesy visits" to Vajpayee and no political issue is touched upon.

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