New Delhi: The final journey of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee has begun. Sea of people has swarmed the roads with teary-eyed men and women, young and old jostling to catch a last glimpse of their leader, who lies in state on a decorated gun carriage.
Many are chanting slogans, thousands are sprinkling rose petals on their leader, who is no more. 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. The glass coffin, draped in India’s flag, is passing through Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, the road named after the BJP’s founder, whom Vajpayee revered.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah are following their leader through the lanes and bylanes of Darya Ganj leading up to Rajghat, on which Vajpayee once moved with protocol every year, precisely around this time- while going to the Red Fort to address the nation on Independence Day, from 1998 to 2003.
Today’s journey, however, is different. People have queued up on both sides of the road with their warmth beating the humidity of 2:30 PM. The final rites will be held at 4:00 PM at Smriti Sthal, a large piece of land with manicured grass behind the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi.
Earlier in the day, the mortal remains of India’s 10th Prime Minister were brought from his residence at Krishna Menon Marg to the party office, where scores of people, leaders as well as common men, turned up to pay floral tributes.
Several foreign dignitaries are scheduled to be present at the cremation. King of Bhutan Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk arrived in the morning to attend the funeral, followed by Nepal’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, on his arrival, told ANI, “We remember him (Vajpayee) for his contribution to Bangladesh Liberation War and strong support to the people of Bangladesh. He had a great liking for Bengali music. I had the privilege of serving in Delhi as career diplomat when he became the Foreign Minister.” Sri Lanka’s acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella also reached India. Pakistan’s acting Law and Information Minister Ali Zafar is also expected to arrive in the national capital to pay homage to the ‘Gentle Giant’ Vajpayee.