India mourns former PM Atal Behari Vajpayee

Atal Bihari Vajpayee The First Indian Leader to Address UNGA in Hindi

People spilled over barricades and jostled to get a glimpse of the former prime minister.

"We have learnt with sadness the passing away of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, former Prime Minister of India, who was undergoing treatment in a hospital in New Delhi", the Foreign Office said in a statement. Along with him walked BJP president Amit Shah and all BJP chief ministers and leaders.

"It was Atal Ji's exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century", Mr Modi said in a tweet.

In keeping with the military honours, three service chiefs placed wreaths on the body of Vajpayee before leaders paid their floral tributes.

First elected to parliament in 1957, Atal Behari Vajpayee was widely considered a giant of Indian politics. The Cabinet decided that the state funeral for the departed leader would be held at Smriti Sthal, New Delhi. From there it would be taken to the BJP headquarters tomorrow, where people would be able to pay their last respects. According to a notification, which was issued just after his demise. It was only Vajpayee whose death could bring the BJP's sworn political rivals belonging to the Left, CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and CPI national secretary D. Raja, to the BJP headquarters on Friday.

Top Indian politicians, including Rahul Gandhi of the opposition Congress party, and South Asian leaders including Bhutanese King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuk, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, and Bangladesh Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, also attended the cremation.

The panelists on television and political pundits seemed somewhat surprised as people from all sections of society gathered in huge numbers and rushed and jostled each other to shower flower petals on the cortege that was carrying Vajpaye on his final journey.

The tricolour that was wrapped around Vajpayee's body was removed and given to his foster granddaughter Niharika after which the body was handed over to the family for last rites.

Half day holiday in the afternoon of day of funeral in all Central government offices and CPSUs across the country, and Delhi government offices in NCT of Delhi. He had suffered a stroke in 2009, which reportedly weakened his cognitive abilities, following which he developed dementia.

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