New Delhi, Aug 17: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away at AIIMS on Thursday at age 93, was on Friday cremated with full military honours at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal. Vajpayee’s foster-daughter Namita lit the funeral pyre amidst the chanting of vedic hymns and firing of a 21-gun salute by soldiers.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi led a galaxy of political leaders cutting across party lines and foreign dignitaries attended the cremation ceremony.
What happened in the day:
Earlier in the day, as clock ticked people started pouring in and the crowd soon swelled to thousands at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, where the BJP headquarters is located. At 11 a.m. when Vajpayee’s mortal remains were brought, the tempo of the slogans rose rapidly. Seeing the crowd increasing police had to close the gates of headquarters.
The police had a tough time managing the crowd, which wanted to enter the BJP office. Many ran out of patience and started jumping over the gate, which led to a mild scuffle with the police. (ALSO READ: Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Final Journey in Pictures, France Condoles Vajpayee’s Demise, Says His Name Will Remain Linked to Indo-French Friendship)
Scores of commoners joined Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP President Amit Shah in the final journey to bid adieu to Vajpayee as the cadaver was taken out from the party headquarters to Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the banks of Yamuna river for the last rites.
Slogans like Atalji amar rahen, Jab tak sooraj chand rahega, Atalji ka naam rahega, Bharat Mata ki jai and Vande Mataram rent the air as the procession progressed. Some people were carrying banners containing lines from poems written by Vajpayee.
Keeping the military honours, three service chiefs placed wreaths on the body of Vajpayee. After which political leaders paid their floral tributes.
The tricolour wrapped around Vajpayee’s body was removed and given to his foster granddaughter Niharika. Following which the body was handed over to the family for last rites.
Political Leaders Present
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, veteran BJP leaders and Vajpayee’s long-time associates L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Congress President Rahul Gandhi were present at the funeral. Former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister and PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Anand Sharma, Lok Sabha Deputy Speker M. Thambidurai, former Union Minister A. Raja, MDMK chief Vaiko and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi were among who witnessed the performance of the last rites.
Foreign Dignitaries at The Ceremony
Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk and former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai led foreign dignitaries including Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Sri Lanka’s Acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali in paying homage.
Tribute Pour in
Later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to pay last respect to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) patriarch. “Atal Ji, you will live on in the hearts and minds of every Indian. No words can ever do justice to your rich contribution towards the making of our country,” Modi posted.
Referring to foreign dignitaries, who attended the funeral ceremony of Vajpayee, PM Modi wrote, “People came from all parts of India, from all sections of society to pay tributes to an extraordinary personality who made an extraordinary contribution to the nation. India salutes you Atal Ji!”
President Ram Nath Kovind wrote to Vajpayee’s foster daughter to condole the former Prime Minister’s death. He recounted incidents that made Vajpayee a “Renaissance man of Indian politics.”
“My condolences at the passing of Atal Bihari Vajpayee; my heartfelt emotions are with you and others in the family in this moment of profound tragedy. Atalji’s death is, of course, a personal loss for you and others at home but it is also a personal loss for me,” Kovind said in his letter to Namita Kaul Bhattacharya.
French Foreign Ministry released a statement reading, “Poet, politician, visionary, he left his mark on India’s history. His name remains linked to the Indo-French friendship, which he shaped by launching the strategic partnership that has united our two countries since 1998.”
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat said, “This is a loss for all of us. We lost a ‘swayamsevak’ like him to destiny, it’s our loss as well. He used to attend ‘Shakhas’ (RSS meetings) since he was in Standard 9. Still can’t believe that he is gone.”
Pakistan caretaker Minister of Law and Justice, Syed Ali Zafar said, “I have come here as a representative of people of Pakistan to share your grief. Vajpayee Sahab was a man of peace and gave visionary leadership to India.”
Vajpayee, who passed away at AIIMS on Thursday evening, had a pan-India appeal and his flair for foreign policy and initiatives were acknowledged globally.
The country observed a seven-day state mourning as a mark of respect for the leader was decorated with Bharat Ratna and was very popular. The tricolour is flying half-staff.