Thousands of people flocked the roads in the national capital on Friday to pay last respects to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who was cremated with full state honour at Smriti Sthal here.
India’s 10th Prime Minister breathed his last at 5:05 pm on Thursday after spending nine weeks at the All India Institute of Medical Science, where he was undergoing treatment for Urinary Tract Infection, low urine output and chest congestion. He was 93.
His daughter Namita Bhattacharya lit the funeral pyre, while the Tricolour, wrapped around the glass coffin of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was handed over to his granddaughter Niharika. He was accorded rifle salute.
President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, BJP president Amit Shah, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, senior BJP leader L.K. Advani, Congress president Rahul Gandhi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, among various other national leaders attended the cremation ceremony to pay homage to the beloved leader.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba and Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa also paid their last tribute to Vajpayee.
The ceremony was also attended by a string of foreign dignitaries including King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, Sri Lanka’s acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella and former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai.
Earlier in the day, the cadaver was taken out from the newly built Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) headquarters – the walls of which saw Vajpayee for the first and the last time. People sprinkled rose petals on their beloved leader as his final journey began towards Smriti Sthal – a large piece of land with manicured grass behind the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi.
Prime Minister Modi and Amit Shah followed their leader through the lanes of Darya Ganj leading up to Rajghat.
Vajpayee, who led the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government from 1998 to 2004, was the first-ever member of the Bharatiya Janata Party to become India’s Prime Minister. He was given Bharat Ratna – India’s highest civilian honour – in 2015.