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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 December 2005, 18:12 GMT
Vajpayee to retire from politics
Atal Behari Vajpayee
Mr Vajpayee will not fight the next election
Former Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has announced he is to retire from active politics.

He told a rally of his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the western city of Mumbai (Bombay) that he would not contest the next general election.

Mr Vajpayee, 81, helped found the BJP and led a coalition government for six years until electoral defeat in 2004.

His surprise announcement comes two days before the expected resignation of the current BJP president, LK Advani.

I will not participate in any electoral politics
Atal Behari Vajpayee

They have both promised to continue to act as advisers as the party enters its new era.

Mr Vajpayee handed over the party presidency to Mr Advani, another party founder, after losing the general election in June 2004.

'Other leaders'

He remained a senior leader but has been winding down his role.

"I will not participate in any electoral politics. There are many other leaders to take forward the work which I and other senior leaders have been doing," Mr Vajpayee told the Mumbai rally.

He said he would not be resigning from his seat in Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh immediately.

The BBC's Zubair Ahmed in Mumbai, where the BJP is holding its silver jubilee celebrations, says party workers were genuinely taken aback by the announcement.

Often described as the moderate face of the Hindu-nationalist BJP, Mr Vajpayee had developed a wider appeal than his more hardline colleagues.

He entered politics in the mid-1950s and was instrumental in the BJP's rise to prominence.


SEE ALSO:
Advani BJP role-switch confirmed
27 Dec 05 |  South Asia
Profile: Atal Behari Vajpayee
13 May 04 |  South Asia
How will history remember Vajpayee?
14 May 04 |  South Asia


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