Daughter lights Atal Behari Vajpayee's pyre

Modi walks behind cortege as nation bids adieu to Vajpayee.

New Delhi: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid a wreath on the bier of former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee, chants of “Modi Modi” rent the air at the Rashtryia Smriti Sthal in the national capital. The Prime Minister had walked the entire 6-km stretch from the BJP headquarters on Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg to the cremation ground behind the cortege of the party’s tallest leader. After that cries of “Jai Shri Ram” reverberated as one of the leading architects of the Ram Janmabhoomi movement, Lal Krishna Advani, approached the coffin of his “closest friend of 65 years” to place a wreath and bid his final adieu.

The bugles sounded the Last Post, uniformed soldiers clicked their heels and a sombre silence fell over the crowd as Vajpayee’s mortal remains were consigned to the flames on Friday evening, with the sun setting on the life of a poet-politician who combined accommodative politics with graciousness. It was at about 4.45 pm when amid the chanting of Vedic mantras Vajpayee’s foster daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya lit the funeral pyre of the BJP stalwart.

As orange flames rolled up from the pyre, Ms Bhattacharya and her daughter Niharika hugged each other with tears glistening through their eyes. The picturesque Smriti Sthal also saw hectic activity as government officials gave the final touches to the canopy raised on a platform where Vajpayee was cremated. Fearing heavy rains, the officials had wanted to cover the area with iron sheets. But the paucity of time forced them to put up only two iron sheets over the iron structure, that was painted saffron hours before the cremation.

President Ram Nath Kovind, vice-president M. Venkaiah Naidu, BJP president Amit Shah, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, Army Chief Gen. Bipin Rawat, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa and Navy chief Adm. Sunil Lanba laid wreaths. Other attendees at the funeral included home minister Rajnath Singh and some of his Cabinet colleagues including Harsh Vardhan, Ram Vilas Paswan, Shripad Naik and Piyush Goyal.

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