As bugles sounded the last post and soldiers fired in the air in salute, a sea of people at the Smriti Sthal in central Delhi bid a tearful farewell to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee whose mortal remains were consigned to the flames with full state honours on Friday.
As bugles sounded the last post and soldiers fired in the air in salute, a sea of people at the Smriti Sthal in central Delhi bid a tearful farewell to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee whose mortal remains were consigned to the flames with full state honours on Friday, a day after he passed away at age 93.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP veteran and Vajpayee’s close friend L K Advani, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, BJP president Amit Shah, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and a host of dignitaries, including Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and Afghanistan’s former President Hamid Karzai, watched as Vajpayee’s foster daughter Namita Bhattacharya lit the pyre.
Minutes earlier, the Tricolour draping Vajpayee was folded and handed over to grand daughter Niharika, and many onlookers could not hold back tears. The multitude that had gathered hours before the cortege arrived at Smriti Sthal raised slogans as the pyre was lit to end the final journey.
Modi and Shah had led the mourners on foot from the BJP office on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg, and, in scenes not witnessed in Delhi since May 1991 following the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, hundreds poured on the roads for a final glimpse of their leader.
The BJP headquarters, where Vajpayee’s body was taken on Friday morning from his Krishna Menon Marg house, was swamped by huge crowds. Inside, the Prime Minister, ministers and party workers paid their last respects, filing past the body in silence. A large portrait of a smiling Vajpayee formed the backdrop.
Modi said no words can ever do justice to Vajpayee’s “rich contribution to the making of our country”. In a tweet, he said: “People came from all parts of India, from all sections of society pay tributes to an extraordinary personality who made an extraordinary contribution to the nation. India salutes you Atal Ji!”.