Nation bids farewell to poet prime minister

Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was cremated with full state honours at Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi, this evening. His adopted daughter Namita Bhattacharya lit the funeral pyre and the poet-politician was given a gun salute. His body was shifted from his residence to the BJP headquarters this morning, where scores of leaders, cutting across party lines, paid tribute to the leader through the day.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah walked beside the coffin as it was brought to Smriti Sthal. Vajpayee, a stalwart of the BJP, passed away on Thursday after battling a prolonged illness at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He was 93. The charismatic leader is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya. The government has announced seven days of state mourning, and the national flag will be flown at half-mast for seven days across the country.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, BJP veteran L.K. Advani, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, Congress president Rahul Gandhiand others laid wreaths as they paid their last respects. Several foreign dignitaries, including the king of Bhutan and Bangladesh’s foreign minister, were also present. The former prime minister was accorded a state funeral with thousands of people joining his last journey.

A sea of people today joined the funeral procession of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi walking behind the gun carriage carrying the mortal remains. The crowd was so massive that the people spilled over barricades and jostled to get a glimpse of the former prime minister. During the procession, people chanted slogans like “Atal Bihari Amar Rahe” as Vajpayee’s cortege made its way from the BJP headquarters to the cremation ground.

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