New Delhi: The powerful and the commoners, jostled to offer their last respects to late APJ Abdul Kalam on Monday as President Pranab Mukherjee, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders cutting across political divide led the nation in paying homage to a leader who rose from humble origins to occupy the top office.
Long queues of people, especially school and college students, were seen through the day at 10, Rajaji Marg residence of Kalam in Lutyen's Delhi waiting for their turn to have a last look at the mortal remains of the person who had asked them to dream big and came to be hailed as the "People's President".
A seven-day national mourning was observed in honour of Kalam, whose last rites will be performed in his birthplace Rameswaram in Tamil Nadu on Thursday morning in accordance with the wishes of his family headed by his elder brother Muthu Mohammed Meeran Marraikar (99). He would be given a state funeral with full military honours.
Both the Houses of Parliament adjourned for two days after paying glowing tributes while the Union Cabinet met to pass a resolution hailing his services to the nation.
Mukherjee, Hamid Ansari, Modi and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and a host of dignitaries received the mortal remains of Kalam at the Palam technical area as the body was flown from Shillong to Guwahati en route Delhi by the Air Force.
The dignitaries placed wreaths on the body that was wrapped in a tri-colour and placed on a deck on the tarmac at at the Palam technical area.
The President and other dignitaries stood in silence as a tri-services guard of honour was given before the former President's body was taken in a flower-bedecked gun carriage to his residence at 10 Rajaji Marg.
Then the President, Prime Minister, Vice President union ministers and political leaders of various hues, including BJP President Amit Shah, veteran BJP leader LK Advani, Congress President Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and Left leaders Sitaram Yechury and D Raja were among those who visited Kalam's residence to pay their last respects.
After paying floral tributes, the leaders offered their condolences to the two grandsons of Kalam's 99-year-old elder brother, Muthu Mohammed Meeran Marrakair, who desired that the last rites be performed in Rameswaram in the southern coastal edge of Tamil Nadu, the birth place of Kalam.
Personalities from different walks of life spanning politics, industry, education and cinema hailed him as a "true son" of India and a "real gem".
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, Delhi Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, three service chiefs and the Marshal of the Indian Air Force 96-year-old Arjan Singh, D Raja of CPI, cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar were among the dignitaries, who paid their last respects to the departed soul.
Earlier the body of Kalam, who collapsed during a lecture at the IIM and died of cardiac arrest, was taken from Shillong in an Air Force helicopter to Guwahati, where Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi paid his respects. Meghalaya Govenror V Shanmuganathan accompanied the body.
Envoys of several countries including Pakistan and Israel paid homage to former Kalam, while US Ambassador offered his condolences to the passing of Kalam, an inspiring scientist and leader".
The Union Cabinet met this morning and passed a resolution condoling the death of Kalam and hailing his services to the nation. "In his passing away the country has lost a visionary scientist, a true nationalist and a great son," the resolution said.
Both Houses of Parliament adjourned for the day after paying glowing tributes to Kalam. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha will now meet on July 30.
The BJP Parliamentary Party met before the Cabinet. The Prime Minister said the former President was an "ordinary man with an extraordinary personality" who gave the best to every position he held and that India has lost a rare gem in his demise.
"In Dr Kalam's death, the country has lost a sagacious statesman, a great scientist and a friend of the under- privileged and a fine human being," the Lok Sabha said in a condolence resolution read out by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.
In the Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari termed Kalam's death as "an irreparable loss to the country."
He said the country has lost a "true son of India and his contributions to the nation, in his capacity as a man of technology, a teacher and a leader will be deeply cherished by a grateful nation."
Members in both Houses stood in silence for a brief while before the proceedings were adjourned for two days.