Shri Vajpayee has participated in various social and cultural activities. He has been a Member of the National Integration Council since 1961. Some of his other associations include -
(i) President, All India Station Masters and Assistant Station Masters Association (1965-70);
(ii) Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Smarak Samiti (1968-84);
(iii) Deen Dayal Dham, Farah, Mathura, U.P; and
(iv) Janmabhomi Smarak Samiti, 1969 onwards.
Founder-member of the erstwhile Jana Sangh (1951), President, Bharatiya Jana Sangh (1968-1973), leader of the Jana Sangh parliamentary party (1955-1977) and a founder-member of the Janata Party (1977-1980), Shri Vajpayee was President, BJP (1980-1986) and the leader of BJP parliamentary party during 1980-1984, 1986 and 1993-1996. He was Leader of the Opposition throughout the term of the 11th Lok Sabha. Earlier, he was India's External Affairs Minister in the Morarji Desai Government from March 24, 1977 ,to July 28, 1979.
Widely respected within the country and abroad as a statesman of the genre of Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru, Shri Vajpayee's 1998-99 stint as Prime Minister has been characterised as 'one year of courage of conviction'. It was during this period that India entered a select group of nations following a series of successful nuclear tests at Pokhran in May 1998. The bus journey to Pakistan in February 1999 was widely acclaimed for starting a new era of negotiations to resolve the outstanding problems of the sub-continent. India's honesty made an impact on the world community. Later, when this gesture of friendship turned out to be a betrayal of faith in Kargil, Shri Vajpayee was also hailed for his successful handling of the situation in repulsing back the intruders from the Indian soil.
It was during Shri Vajpayee's 1998-99 tenure that despite a global recession, India achieved 5.8 per cent GDP growth, which was higher than the previous year. Higher agricultural production and increase in foreign exchange reserves during this period were indicative of a forward-looking economy responding to the needs of the people. "We must grow faster. We simply have no other alternative" has been Shri Vajpayee's slogan focusing particularly on economic empowerment of the rural poor. The bold decisions taken by his Government for strengthening rural economy, building a strong infrastructure and revitalising human development programmes, fully demonstrated his Government's commitment to a strong and self-reliant nation to meet the challenges of the next millennium to make India an economic power in the 21st century. Speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort on the 52nd Independence Day, he had said, "I have a vision of India: an India free of hunger and fear, an India free of illiteracy and want."
Shri Vajpayee has served on a number of important Committees of Parliament. He was Chairman, Committee on Government Assurances (1966-67); Chairman, Public Accounts Committee (1967-70); Member, General Purposes Committee (1986); Member, House Committee and Member, Business Advisory Committee, Rajya Sabha (1988-90); Chairman, Committee on Petitions, Rajya Sabha (1990-91); Chairman, Public Accounts Committee, Lok Sabha (1991-93); Chairman, Standing Committee on External Affairs (1993-96).
Shri Vajpayee participated in the freedom struggle and went to jail in 1942. He was detained during Emergency in 1975-77.
Widely travelled, Shri Vajpayee has been taking a keen interest in international affairs, uplift of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, women and child welfare. Some of his travels abroad include visits such as - Member, Parliamentary Goodwill Mission to East Africa, 1965; Parliamentary Delegation to Australia, 1967; European Parliament, 1983; Canada, 1987; Indian delegation to Commonwealth Parliamentary Association meetings held in Canada, 1966 and 1994, Zambia, 1980, Isle of Man 1984, Indian delegation to Inter-Parliamentary Union Conference, Japan, 1974; Sri Lanka, 1975; Switzerland, 1984; Indian Delegation to the UN General Assembly, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993 and 1994; Leader, Indian Delegation to the Human Rights Commission Conference, Geneva, 1993.
Shri Vajpayee was conferred Padma Vibhushan in 1992 in recognition of his services to the nation. He was also conferred the Lokmanya Tilak Puruskar and the Bharat Ratna Pt. Govind Ballabh Pant Award for the Best Parliamentarian, both in 1994. Earlier, the Kanpur University honoured him with an Honorary Doctorate of Philosophy in 1993.
Well known and respected for his love for poetry and as an eloquent speaker, Shri Vajpayee is known to be a voracious reader. He is fond of Indian music and dance.