New Delhi: Three-time Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee died Thursday, sparking tributes from across the political spectrum as current leader Narendra Modi mourned the "irreplaceable loss" of the respected statesman.
The 93-year-old had battled poor health for years but his condition deteriorated sharply in recent days, with doctors placing him on life support.
The sudden turn sparked a flurry of visits from the sports fraternity who paid a tribute to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader.
India is at a great loss today. Shri #AtalBihariVajpayee ji’s contributions to our nation have been innumerable. Thoughts and prayers go out to his loved ones.— Sachin Tendulkar (@sachin_rt) August 16, 2018
Asaman ko choo gaya, jo asmaan sa vishal tha, dharti mein simat gaya, jo mitti jaisa narm tha.
Kaun hai jo Atal reh paya zindagi bhar, Atal banke wo zindagi ko paa gaya.
Om Shanti #AtalBihariVajpayee ji 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/56Xi1sqzEf— Virender Sehwag (@virendersehwag) August 16, 2018
#AtalBihariVajpayee ji - A leader par excellence, a daring PM who made Pokhran possible, a highly principled politician & a poet of inspirational grit who was admired across party lines.— Rajyavardhan Rathore (@Ra_THORe) August 16, 2018
His demise is an irreparable loss, and marks the end of an era. ॐ शांति शांति 🙏
One of the Greatest PM this Country has ever seen.A visionary, A poet, A statesman, A man who won over million hearts. Man who deserves nothing but respect.
Bharat Ratna #AtalBihariVajpayee is no more with us.His contribution for the motherland will inspire generations to come. pic.twitter.com/XhDk0WrNR5— Vijender Singh (@boxervijender) August 16, 2018
My deepest condolences on the passing of our former Prime Minister Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ji. One of the few politicians I always respected for his honesty and devotion to the national cause. May his soul rest in peace.— Shikhar Dhawan (@SDhawan25) August 16, 2018
One of India's Most Loved Prime Minister, a great poet and a wonderful statesman. We as a nation will miss you sir #AtalBihariVaajpayee ji 🙏🏼 Deepest condolences to admirers and loved ones . pic.twitter.com/BPQRUD8nLG— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) August 16, 2018
The Indian Cricket Team and BCCI condoles the sad demise of former India Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Atalji dedicated his life in service of the nation.— BCCI (@BCCI) August 16, 2018
A man of class and dignity. Always put India first. #AtalBihariVajpayee— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) August 16, 2018
A sad day for the country, as we lose one of our greatest leaders. #AtalBihariVajpayee contributed so much for the betterment of the country. May his soul rest in peace 🙏🏻— Anil Kumble (@anilkumble1074) August 16, 2018
India loses one of its great leaders. “ Gentle Giant” thats a wonderful way to remember him and his work. My deepest condolences . #ripvajpayee— Viswanathan Anand (@vishy64theking) August 16, 2018
Vajpayee was being treated at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi, where he was admitted nine weeks ago.
"Unfortunately, his condition deteriorated over the last 36 hours and he was put on life support systems. Despite the best efforts, we have lost him today," AIIMS said in a statement.
"We join the nation in deeply mourning this great loss."
The former journalist and poet-turned-politician was one of the few opposition lawmakers inside parliament when India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, still held office.
His more than five-decade-long career peaked in the 1990s, when his masterful oratory attracted tens of thousands of people to his rallies across the country.
He also became the first non-Congress leader since India's independence in 1947 to complete an entire term in office as head of a BJP-led ruling alliance between March 1998 and May 2004.
Vajpayee's often conciliatory tone, and poetic jibes directed at opponents, were popular on both sides of the political divide.
He withdrew from the public eye after a BJP-led alliance suffered a shock election defeat in 2004.
He had since rarely been seen or heard in public. It was widely reported that he suffered a stroke in 2009, which largely confined him to his New Delhi residence.
He continues to enjoy devotion in many parts of the country, especially in key bellwether Hindu-heartland states in north and central India....