Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has been laid to rest at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal in New Delhi with full state honours.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh were among the thousands of people at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna, the BJP patriarch’s final resting place.
Several foreign dignitaries, including the king of Bhutan and the Bangladesh’s foreign minister, were also present.
Thousands had gathered to pay their final respects to their beloved leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee. The former prime minister, who passed away yesterday.
Vajpayee’s mortal remains were taken to Rashtriya Smriti Sthal from the BJP headquarters, where BJP leaders and workers paid their tribute.
Thousands had gathered, forming a beeline to participate in Vajpayee’s final procession. Several BJP stalwarts including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah are walking in the procession as a mark of tribute.
Earlier in the day, the young and old, men and women, some with children, jostled outside the gates of the BJP headquarters, anxious for a last glimpse of the late leader before the state funeral at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna later in the day.
Inside, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and a host of ministers and party workers paid their last respects to the late leader, mourned by them and the opposition as one of India’s tallest leaders.
The air was solemn as Vajpayee’s body, draped in the tricolour, was placed on a platform draped in white flowers. Hundreds of people filed past the body in silence, with a large portrait of a smiling Vajpayee — a BJP flag on either side — in the backdrop.
Opposition leaders like CPI’s D Raja and CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury were among those who visited the BJP headquarters to pay their respects.
Earlier in the morning, hundreds of people chanted “Atal Bihari Amar Rahe” as Vajpayee’s cortege made its way from his home through the city to reach the BJP office.
A decorated gun carriage carrying his mortal remains left his home on Krishna Menon Marg around 10 am and reached the party’s headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, about five kilometres away, around 11 am.
The funeral procession will leave the BJP headquarters at 1 pm and the last rites will be performed at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal at 4 pm.
The funeral procession will go through Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg, Delhi Gate, Netaji Subhash Marg, Nishadraj Marg and Shanti van before reaching Smriti Sthal, Delhi Traffic Police said in a tweet.
Police has made elaborate security arrangements for the funeral procession, officials said.
Seen as a moderate face of BJP, Vajpayee first became prime minister in 1996, leading a shaky coalition whose members were suspicious of the BJP’s right-wing politics. It lasted for 13 days and collapsed after losing a vote of no-confidence.
His second stint as prime minister was in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance again came to power but that lasted for just 13 months.
Finally, the NDA with Vajpayee as PM returned to power in 1999 and was voted out in 2004.
In the morning, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Army Chief Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat paid homage to the former prime minister at his official residence.
In view of the funeral procession, several roads in the national capital have been closed for the public later in the day.
(With inputs from PTI)