Mortal remains of Atal Bihari Vajpayee , India’s three –time charismatic Prime Minister ,were consigned to flame on Friday as per the Hindu faith at Delhi’s Smriti Sthal on Ring Road connecting the nation’s capital with the rest of the nation .His daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharjee performed the last rites amidst state honour and 21 gun salutes. President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with his ministerial colleagues, former PM Dr Manmohan Singh, AICC President Rahul Gandhi ,foreign dignitaries including King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wanchuk and ex-President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai were present on the occasion as India’s national flag flew at half mast and several state government offices remaining closed for the day. Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nepal Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Sri Lanka acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella arrived early afternoon for the funeral.
India has declared seven- day mourning .The flags of the embassies of the United States of America, The United Kingdom and several other countries in Delhi also flew at half mast on Friday as a mark of respect to the departed leader. Thousands of people paid tribute to the legendary PM at his home. Many more walked by his side when he was carried in a flower-decked gun carriage through the streets of Delhi — first to the BJP headquarters and then to his final resting place in Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the sacred Yuma River .PM Narendra Modi led government leaders in paying tribute to Vajpayee both at his house and the party headquarters. He then walked along with BJP leaders, Union ministers, chief ministers and the commoners as the glass casket was taken from the BJP office on Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg to the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal for his final resting. Flower petals were showered by people en route the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal. Thousands were seen carrying flowers and garlands as they walked by the casket when it was taken to the BJP headquarters from his home. People chanted ‘Atal Bihari Amar Rahe’ and ‘Vande Mataram’.The gates of Vajpayee’s official residence was opened at 7.30 am for people to pay tribute. There was a heavy presence of the police, traffic and paramilitary personnel to thwart anything untoward. News agency PTI reports a 52-year-old man, Yogesh Kumar, arrived at Vajpayee’s residence in Delhi with a group of people from Uttarkashi in Uttarakhand. The group covered a distance of around 500-km overnight in the hope to catch one last glimpse of their beloved leader, Kumar said.”I had met Vajpayeeji in 1984 when he had visited Uttarkashi en route to Gangotri. He visited the town once again in 1986,” Kumar claimed, as he displayed a picture of Vajpayee with him.”I have also brought along Gangajal from Gangotri,” he said, hoping to find an opportunity to see him. Another man, in his early 20s, said he had come all the way from Bihar to pay homage to the former prime minister. “We have lost a great leader,” he said. Vajpayee, a bachelor, is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya and son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharjee.”It is a very big loss for us and his death has left a void that would be impossible to fill,” said Anoop Mishra, nephew of Vajpayee. Delhi High court and all district courts functioned till 1 pm on Friday. Earlier, in a circular, the Home Ministry said national flag would be flown at half mast from today for seven days across India and a state funeral would be accorded to Vajpayee.”As a mark of respect to the departed dignitary, it has been decided that seven days of state mourning will be observed throughout India from August 16-22, both days inclusive.”During this period, the national flag will be flown at half mast throughout India where it is regularly flown and there will be no official entertainment during the period of the state mourning,” the Home Ministry said. The 93-year-old leader passed away on Thursday at AIIMS in South Delhi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said “the passing away of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was also founder president of BJP in 1980, marks the end of an era and termed it as a “personal and irreplaceable” loss for him. He said the BJP patriarch lived for the nation and served it assiduously for decades while noting that it was Vajpayee’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century. Vajpayee died at the AIIMS hospital in South Delhi on Thursday following prolonged illness.”Atal Ji’s passing away is a personal and irreplaceable loss for me. I have countless fond memories with him. He was an inspiration to Karyakartas like me. I will particularly remember his sharp intellect and outstanding wit.”It was Atal Ji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century. His futuristic policies across various sectors touched the lives of each and every citizen of India,” Modi tweeted.He said it was due to Vajpayee’s perseverance and struggles that the BJP was built brick by brick.”He travelled across the length and breadth of India to spread the BJP’s message, which led to the BJP becoming a strong force in our national polity and in several states,” he said. Modi said India grieves the demise of Vajpayee.”My thoughts are with his family, BJP Karyakartas and millions of admirers in this hour of sadness. Om Shanti,” he added.(image: courtesy DD)