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Former Indian PM Vajpayee, the gentler face of Hindu nationalism, dies

Former Indian PM Vajpayee, the gentler face of Hindu nationalism, dies
FILE PHOTO: Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee speaks during a news conference in the eastern Indian university town of Shantiniketan, northwest of Calcutta, India April 2, 2004. REUTERS/Jayanta Shaw/File Photo   -   Copyright  REUTERS FILE PHOTO(Reuters)
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NEWDELHI (Reuters) – Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who ordered nuclear tests to make India a nuclear weapons power and travelled by bus to Pakistan in a grand diplomatic gesture, died on Thursday, the hospital where he was admitted said in a statement.

A poet-politician, Vajpayee was one of the most popular leaders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. He was 93.

But unlike Modi, who critics say is a polarising figure despite his pledge of inclusive development for India’s 1.3 billion people, Vajpayee was the moderate face of Hindu nationalism, admired by some political foes.

(Writing by Sanjeev Miglani and Sudarshan Varadhan)

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