Vajpayee was a Hindu nationalist who in 1998 ordered nuclear weapons tests that stoked fears of atomic war with rival Pakistan. But he later launched a groundbreaking peace process with Islamabad.
That was not the only way in which Vajpayee seemed a political contradiction. He was a moderate leader of an often-strident Hindu nationalist movement, and a lifelong poet who revered nature but who oversaw India’s growth into a swaggering regional economic power.
Vajpayee’s supporters saw him as a skilled politician. Critics accused him and his party of stoking public fears of India’s large Muslim minority. Both sides agreed he was that most rare thing in Indian politics: a man untainted by corruption scandals.