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n 15 Au

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi unfurls the Tricolour at Red Fort on 15 August, he will cross a major milestone- Modi will become the longest-serving non-Congress Prime Minister of India.

In doing so Modi will leave behind his own party leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee who so far held the record. Modi has now been in office for over six years, winning back-to-back terms with 282 and 303 Lok Sabha seats in 2014 and 2019 respectively.

Vajpayee first became prime minister on 16 May 1996, but resigned after 13 days because he was unable to form the government. However, he stayed on for the next three days, until 1 June, when Deve Gowda was sworn in as his successor. His tenure was 16 days in total.

Vajpayee returned as prime minister on 19 March 1998, this time remaining in office for 2,257 days, until 22 May 2004. Put together, Vajpayee spent 2,273 days as PM. He was also the only non-Congress PM to have completed a full term at the time.

Modi, who assumed charge on 26 May 2014, will have spent 2,273 days in office as of 14 August 2020. This means that come 15 August, he will break Vajpayee’s record.

Among India’s other non-Congress prime ministers were Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V.P. Singh, Chandra Shekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral, none of whom completed a full term in office.

The longest-serving Prime Minister of India is Jawaharlal Nehru, who spent over 16 years in office and died while still holding the position. His daughter Indira Gandhi holds the second-longest tally and is followed, Manmohan Singh. Modi is the fourth longest-serving prime minister.

“He (Modi) might have broken the previous record, but the new record that he will end up creating will remain unmatched in the Indian political history. The kind of stable government he has given speaks volume,” said Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a senior BJP leader.

Congress leader Shakti Singh Gohil, though, dismissed Modi’s record tenure to say it wasn’t the duration that mattered but the achievements.

“It is not how long you serve as the prime minister but what you achieve and the work you do that counts. There can’t be a comparison between Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Modi as the former was inclusive in nature. When the Congress was in power, it believed in taking the opposition into confidence and when Vajpayeeji was the PM, he also followed the same, unlike today,” said Gohil, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP.

Senior journalist Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay said, “The basic difference is that Atal Bihari Vajpayee presided over a coalition government and Modi doesn’t need to rely on coalition partners. The terms and conditions for Vajpayee were often set by the coalition partners, for instance, when BSP supremo Mayawati pulled out from the government.

“At the same time Mr Modi is an unhindered prime minister as far as carrying out the ideological agenda of the BJP and the Sangh Parivar is concerned. Finally, in comparison to Vajpayee, Modi is less concerned about institutional integrity and political dialogue with adversaries, besides displaying total dislike for dissent.”

Another BJP leader, Amit Malviya, took to Twitter to congratulate Modi.

“A lot of BJP leaders took to Twitter to wish the Prime Minister on this feat. Today, PM Narendra Modi becomes the fourth longest serving PM in the history of India! He now also holds the distinction of being the longest serving non-Congress PM. Vajpayee ji served for 2,268 days, with all his terms put together. Today PM Modi has surpassed that duration (sic),” he posted.