Home India India Mourns Vajpayee, Poet-Prime Minister, Statesman. Funeral Today

India Mourns Vajpayee, Poet-Prime Minister, Statesman. Funeral Today

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NEW DELHI:Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a towering politician mourned by millions across the nation, was taken on a last journey through the streets of Delhi today on a flower-decked gun-carriage to the office of the ruling BJP, the party he helped form in 1980. He will be cremated this afternoon with full state honours.
A crowd chanted “Atal Bihari Amar Rahe (long live Atal Bihari)” and followed the procession that was led by a tri-services march. Mr Vajpayee could never visit the new, sprawling BJP headquarters symbolic of the rise of the party he nurtured for decades.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several ministers and top BJP leaders were present as Mr Vajpayee’s body, in a glass casket draped in the national flag, was carried into the building by soldiers.

The casket was kept overnight at the bungalow on Krishna Menon Marg where the three-time prime minister spent the last few years away from public life.
PM Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind, former president Pranab Mukherjee, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and former deputy prime minister LK Advani — Mr Vajpayee’s oldest friend and BJP colleague — were among those who paid their respects to the iconic leader. This morning, a long queue of citizens was seen outside the house.

Mr Vajpayee’s body will later be taken for the funeral to the Rashtriya Smriti Samadhi near the memorials of former prime ministers Jawaharlal Nehru and Lal Bahadur Shastri. Many roads have been blocked in the capital and traffic restrictions have been announced ahead of what is anticipated to be a procession on a scale similar to the funeral of former PM Rajiv Gandhi 27 years ago.

The government has announced seven-day national mourning and schools and offices are shut in many states today.
The 93-year-old BJP patriarch died on Thursday evening at the All Indian Institute of Medical Sciences or AIIMS, where he had been admitted in June after his health worsened. It was widely reported that the former prime minister had a stroke in 2009 that severely affected his ability to speak and confined him to his home.

Mr Vajpayee, who ruled the country thrice in the 1990s, had retreated from politics over the last few years because of his health.

PM Modi described Mr Vajpayee’s death as the “end of an era” and said he felt like he had lost a father. “For me, personally, it is like losing a father… Whenever he met me, he used to embrace me like a father,” he said in a video message.

“He was a leader, orator, journalist, statesman and more than anything a true son of India… Atal-ji may have gone, but his ideas, views, simplicity will always inspire us Indians.”
Mr Vajpayee was the first non-Congress leader since India’s independence in 1947 to complete an entire term in office as head of a BJP-led ruling alliance between March 1998 and May 2004.

A former journalist, his rich oratory and poetic jibes directed at opponents were popular on both sides of the political divide.

Among those who paid homage to the veteran was former PM Manmohan Singh of the Congress, who had once described him as the “Bhishma Pitamaha” of politics. “Shri Vajpayee Ji stood among the tallest leaders of modern India, who spent his whole life serving our great country,” said Manmohan Singh, who replaced him as prime minister after the BJP lost power in 2004.

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