Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the first non-Congress prime minister to complete a full term in office at the head of a coalition he stitched together with his moderate politics and charismatic appeal, died of multiple health complications at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi on Thursday. He was 93. A bachelor, Vajpayee is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya. “It is with profound grief that we inform about the sad demise of former Prime Minister of India, Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, at 05:05 pm,” Dr (Prof) Aarti Vij of AIIMS said in a statement.
He had been in AIIMS since June 11. Vij said Vajpayee’s condition was stable for the last nine weeks, but “unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems. Despite the best of efforts, we have lost him today. We join the nation in deeply mourning this great loss.” President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led the nation in paying tributes to the departed leader as the government announced a seven-day state mourning. The home ministry said the national flag would be flown at half mast from Thursday for seven days across India and a state funeral would be accorded to Vajpayee.
Official sources said the funeral would be held at Smriti Sthal. A half-day holiday would be declared on the day of the funeral in all central government offices. Union home minister Rajnath Singh said Vajpayee’s body will be taken to his residence at Krishna Menon Marg in New Delhi for people to pay their last respects. Leaders across the political divide mourned the passing away of Vajpayee and many showed up in New Delhi from different parts of the country to pay their respects. President Kovind said: “Atalji, the gentle giant, will be missed by one and all.”
He said Vajpayee’s leadership, foresight, maturity and eloquence put him in a league of his own. Former President Pranab Mukherjee said: “A democrat to the core, Atalji dominated the Opposition space like a titan and led the government with aplomb. An inheritor and practitioner of the best traditions and qualities of leadership, in his demise the nation has lost a great son. An era that will forever be fondly remembered has passed away.”