India lost a political icon and one of its most beloved leaders, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, after prolonged illness on Thursday evening. His demise sent shockwaves across India as well as other parts of the world. He breathed his last at 5.05 pm at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in the national capital.
His mortal remains were taken from the premier healthcare institution to the former prime minister’s residence at 6-A Krishna Menon Marg in New Delhi, where leaders from across the country arrived to pay their last respects.
Among those who paid homage to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) co-founder were Prime Minister Narendra Modi, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, BJP president Amit Shah, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, BJP veterans Lal Krishna Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and former President Pranab Mukherjee, among others.
As the leaders paid tributes to the three-time prime minister of the country, BJP chief Amit Shah told mediapersons that the mortal remains would be kept at party headquarters from Friday morning for general public to pay their last respects.
From 7.30 am to 8.30 am, his mortal remains will be kept for last respect at his residence. At 9 am, his mortal remains will be taken to BJP headquarters. The final journey will begin at 1 pm and the former prime minister will be accorded a state funeral at 4 pm at Smriti Sthal in New Delhi.
The Delhi Police has issued an elaborate traffic advisory for the national capital, saying several roads, primarily in the vicinity of central Delhi, would be closed for general traffic. The Delhi Police traffic department has, however, also suggested alternative routes if travel is necessary.
The BJP-led central government also declared 7-day state mourning across the country. During this period, the national flag will be flown at half mast at all offices and institutions throughout the country. All the government offices will be functional only for half day on Friday.
As a mark of respect to the former prime minister, several states such as Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Bihar and Punjab have declared mourning. All schools and colleges in Delhi and Uttar Pradesh have also been asked to remain closed on Friday.
Tributes poured in for Vajpayee from other parts of the world as well. The US Embassy in New Delhi said that the country grieved with India on the loss of the former prime minister. “He will be remembered for his immense contribution in bolstering US-India relations,” said the US Embassy.
Pakistan Prime Minister-designate Imran Khan and country’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf also mourned the demise of the political stalwart. While Imran Khan called Vajpayee a “tall political personality of the subcontinent”, Musharraf said that his demise was a loss for both India as well as Pakistan.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina also expressed sympathy and condolences to the government and people of India. She released a statement: “On behalf of government and people of Bangladesh and on my own behalf, I express our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to government and the mourning people of India, and to the members of the bereaved family. We pray for the eternal peace of his soul.”