Updated: August 17, 2018 11:26:59 pm
“There is hardly any dry eye here,” the Doordarshan anchor said during the live coverage of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s funeral ceremony at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal in New Delhi on Friday. Thousands mourned over the loss as one of BJP’s tallest leaders was laid to rest with full state honours. The mortal remains of the departed leader were consigned to flames amid bugle sounds and Vedic mantras as Namita Kaul Bhattacharya, Vajpayee’s adopted daughter, lit the funeral pyre. She was accompanied by her granddaughter and other members of the family as cries of “Atal Bihari Amar Rahe” reverberated in the air. Follow HIGHLIGHTS here
The poet-politician, who breathed his last on Thursday, left his admirers and critics in tears as he had earned respect as a ‘gentle giant’ who was always soft-spoken. Vajpayee’s last journey witnessed a sea of people, including top politicians and common folk who followed the cortege. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah walked with the funeral procession as many struggled to catch the last glimpse of the leader.
The mortal remains were taken from BJP headquarters to Smriti Sthal in the afternoon. The distance between BJP headquarters and Smriti Sthal is about 4 kilometers. Mourners jostled and some even climbed trees on the way to capture the moment on their phones. People from across the country, who gathered outside the BJP headquarters, bore testimony to the fact that Vajpayee was loved by all for his empathetic nature and ability to combine accommodative politics with graciousness.
At Smriti Sthal, where last rites were conducted with full state honours, several foreign dignitaries were also present to pay their last respects to the departed soul. Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Pakistan’s Acting Law Minister Ali Zafar were present as the ceremony was conducted amid a teary-eyed atmosphere.
Leaders across party lines were seen wiping their tears as a pall of gloom descended over the spot. At the British High Commission in New Delhi, Union Jack was flown at half-mast as a mark of respect to the former leader. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi were also present among the many dignitaries who laid the wreath near the body of Vajpayee.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his deputy Manish Sisodia were also present at the funeral. The defence chiefs of three forces also paid tributes. President Ram Nath Kovind was especially escorted by men in uniform as he paid his tribute to Vajpayee.
The crowds had begun gathering from last night itself as news came in of the death of the three-time prime minister — who joined the RSS in 1947, rose through ranks to become a stalwart of the BJP and was the first non-Congress prime minister to complete a full term in office. They first gathered at the hospital, then at his Krishna Menon Marg home and then at the BJP headquarters, a PTI report said.
Finally, the body of BJP’s iconic leader was consigned to flames amid gun salute by the Army. Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted after the ceremony and expressed his gratitude towards the people who came from all across the country to pay tributes to the extraordinary leader. “Atal Ji will live on in hearts and minds of every Indian,” he tweeted.
Vajpayee, a stalwart of the BJP, passed away on Thursday after battling a prolonged illness at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He was 93. The charismatic leader is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya. The government has announced seven days of state mourning, and the national flag will be flown at half-mast for seven days across the country.
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