New Delhi: Former Prime Minister and senior Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Atal Bihari Vajpayee was on Friday cremated with full state honours at Smriti Sthal in New Delhi in the presence of relatives, national and international dignitaries and amidst the chants of "Vajpayee Ji Amar Hai".
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was cremated at around at around 05:00 pm. Her foster daughter Namita Bhattacharya lit the funeral pyre.
Thousands of people were part of the funeral procession with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself walking behind the gun carriage carrying the mortal remains. BJP chief Amit Shah, several union ministers and party leaders also walked sombrely behind the carriage as it made its way to the Rashtriya Smirti Sthal where the last rites would be performed.
President of India Ramnath Kovind, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, Senior BJP leader and Vajpayee's long term colleague LK Advani, Congress President Rahul Gandhi were seated in the front row as the family performed the last rites of the departed leader.
Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai, Pakistan's acting Law Minister Syed Ali Zafar, King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and other leaders of the SAARC countries were present for the funeral.
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was ailing since a long time and was admitted to New Delhi's All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in June this year. He breathed his last on Thursday at around 05:00 pm.
Earlier, wrapped in the Indian Tricolour, Atal Bihar Vajpayee's mortal remains was taken to his residence, from where it was taken to the BJP National headquarters. From the BJP headquarters, his funeral procession began with Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and other ministers walking behind the gun carriage carrying the mortal remains.
Vajpayee had largely been confined to his home on Krishna Menon Marg in the heart of Delhi, away from public life since 2009 due to his failing health. He was considered the gold standard of leadership in the BJP and had admirers even among rival parties.
Born in 1924 in Gwalior, Vajpayee became the first non-Congress Prime Minister to serve a full five-year term. He was first exposed to the political sphere during the Quit India movement in 1942. Within five years since then, he became a full-time RSS Pracharak and, due to his oratory skills, he soon became the face of the Jana Sangh (which is today known as the BJP).
Vajpayee was arrested between 1975 to 1977 during the Emergency imposed by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1977, Vajpayee became the external affairs minister in former PM Moraji Desai’s Cabinet. Even in those days, he was the party’s star speaker.
Vajpayee, whose parliamentary experience spanned over four decades, had been a Member of Parliament since 1957. He was elected to the Lok Sabha ten times, and twice to the Rajya Sabha. He first became Prime Minister in 1996. But, his first stint lasted only for 16 days (from May 16-31, 1996). He became Prime Minister again from March 19, 1998 to May 13, 2004.
The union government has announced 07-day mourning in respect of the departed leader.
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