Several people who knew Murli Deora well, including many Congress karyakartas, were disappointed as they were not allowed inside the crematorium to pay last respects and witness the former Union minister’s last rites.
Tejkumar Dikshit (57) from Malad stood outside the Chandanwadi crematorium on Monday determined that he won’t leave till he gets a glimpse of veteran Congress leader Murli Deora, who Dikshit said was a family friend, for one last time.
“It is the 22nd minute since they took his body inside the crematorium premises,” he said looking at his wrist watch, showing 4.10 pm. “I have been counting every minute hoping that the security lets me in before the last rites are over. It must be over by now,” said Dikshit, who has his own business in chemicals, and works for Congress during elections.
Several like Dikshit who knew Deora closely, including many Congress karyakartas, were disappointed at not being allowed inside to pay last respects and witness the veteran Congress leader and former Union Minister’s last rites with state honours.
The funeral was conducted in a small area at the traditional crematorium of Chandanwadi and could accommodate a limited number of people. The wooden pyre for Deora, next to another that was ablaze, was draped in flowers.
Deora, who died in the early hours of Monday after a prolonged illness at the age of 77, was brought to the Chandanwadi crematorium at Marine Lines in an open truck around 4 pm. His body was wrapped in the Indian tricolour seated on a bed of flowers and wreaths weaved out of orchids.
A large number of Congress karyakartas came with the funeral procession. Some managed to get in with party leaders. But many were left out waiting on the pavement outside the crematorium, left to watch their revered leader’s funeral on a small screen set up on a foot over-bridge.
‘He knew every karyakarta by name’ Smita Chaudhari (43), a party worker from Sewri, was one of them, waiting with three fellow party workers from her area.
“We have been at the Congress office since 10 am and came here hoping to get to witness the last rites. But, we understand that it is a small area and there are many family members and friends who would be given priority. There is no point dwelling on it,” Chaudhari said.
Chaudhari fondly recalled Deora as the most approachable Congress leader in the city. “He knew each and every karyakarta by name and used to pat on our head and call us ‘beta.’ Once when I had gone to meet him, his security and assistants said he was busy and I should go back. But then, he heard me outside and came out himself to meet me. Milind Deora is also nice, but Murli Deora had an ease of talking to and dealing with party workers.”
A 52-year-old man who said he was a business acquaintance of businessman-turned-politician Murli Deora said that apart from being a renowned politician, Deora was well-respected in the business community too. “In whatever interaction I have had with Murli Deora, I can say that he was a principled man. Honesty mattered the most to him,” he said.