New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was cremated with full state honours at Rashtriya Smriti Sthal in Delhi on Friday evening. Tens of thousands of people, including top national and international leaders, joined the final procession and paid tributes.
The three-time former Prime Minister and Bharat Ratna award recipient died after a prolonged illness on Thursday evening. The 93-year-old BJP stalwart breathed his last at 5.05 PM at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the national capital.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP chief Amit Shah joined to take part in the final procession.
Later, the tricolour that was wrapped around Vajpayee`s body was removed and given to granddaughter Niharika, after which the body was handed over to the family for last rites.
Vajpayee`s adopted daughter Namita Bhattacharya, accompanied with Niharika, performed the last rites. Namita lit the funeral pyre amidst the chanting of Vedic hymns and firing of a 21-gun salute by soldiers.
President Ram Nath Kovind, PM Modi and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu led a galaxy of political leaders cutting across party lines to bid a tearfull adieu to the former PM.
National and regional leaders present at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal included Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, veteran BJP leaders and Vajpayee`s long-time associates L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, PDP leader Mehbooba Mufti, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge and Anand Sharma, Lok Sabha Deputy Speaker M. Thambidurai, former Union Minister A. Raja, MDMK chief Vaiko and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi.
Foreign dignitaries who arrived in the national capital include Bhutan King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Nepal's Minister for Foreign Affairs Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Sri Lanka`s Acting Foreign Minister Lakshman Kiriella, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali and Pakistan Law Minister Ali Zafar.
Earlier in the day, the mortal remains of the former PM were kept at his residence for the general public and the VIPs so that they can pay their last respect to the departed soul.
The country is observing a seven-day state mourning as a mark of respect for the leader. The tricolour is flying half-staff.
With agency inputs