Thousands Throng the Streets to Get a Last Glimpse of Vajpayee

Thousands Throng the Streets to Get a Last Glimpse of Vajpayee

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Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

Bugles sounded the last post, uniformed soldiers gave a gun salute and silence fell over the crowd as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's mortal remains were consigned to the flames today evening, the sun setting on the life of a poet-politician who combined accommodative politics with graciousness.

Foster daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya lit the pyre as cries of "Atal Bihari Amar Rahe" reverberated in the air and a light drizzle fell, piercing the sombre silence.

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 along the stretch which also houses the memorials of Mahatma Gandhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.

Several foreign dignitaries, including Bhutanese king Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Pakistan's Law Minister Ali Zafar were present as Vajpayee was cremated with full state honours.

Thousands of mourners poured into the streets of the national capital as Vajpayee's cortege made its way from his home to the BJP headquarters on Deendayal Upadhyay Marg and then to the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal.

The tricolour draping Vajpayee, who died yesterday at the age of 93 following prolonged illness at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, was folded and handed over to his granddaughter Niharika.

It was a sea of white, with most mourners dressed in the colour of mourning to remember the man who wove together pragmatism and his vision for an inclusive India. Some could be seen wiping their tears.

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.

(with inputs from PTI)

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