Thousands of people thronged the BJP headquarters to pay homage to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who passed away in New Delhi on Thursday after a prolonged illness.
The young and old, men and women, some with children, jostled outside the gates of the BJP headquarters, anxious for a last glimpse of the late leader before the state funeral at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna at 4 pm on Friday.
The mortal remains of Vajpayee were brought to his Krishna Menon Marg residence late Thursday evening.
“His mortal remains will be kept at his residence at Krishna Menon Marg till 8 am for paying tributes. Around 9 am, his mortal remains will be brought to BJP headquarters at 6-A Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg. His funeral procession will begin at 1 pm and the last rites will be performed at 4 pm at Smriti Sthal,” BJP president Amit Shah said on Thursday night.
The Krishna Menon Marg leading to Vajpayee’s house turned into a high security zone with politicians cutting across party lines and members of the public from all walks of life and ages gathering in large numbers to pay their final tribute to the departed leader.
Shouting slogans like ‘Atalji amar rahe’ (long live Atalji) and ‘Vande Mataram’, scores of people stood outside Vajpayee’s residence with flowers in their hands to catch a glimpse of the leader.
The Central government has announced a seven-day state mourning as a mark of respect to the former prime minister. During this period, the national flag will be flown at half-mast throughout India.
Vajpayee, who was the first non-Congress prime minister to complete a five-year term in office, had not been in active politics since 2004 when the BJP lost the general elections after his term ended.
Soon, the BJP stalwart developed health complications and gradually faded away from public life. Admitted to AIIMS with urinary tract infection on June 11, the 93-year-old breathed his last at 5.05 pm on Thursday.
He became the Prime Minister first in May 1996 for 13 days and again in March 1998 for 13 months. After the Parliamentary elections of October 1999, Vajpayee was sworn in again as the PM, becoming the first and only person after Jawaharlal Nehru to occupy the office for three successive Lok Sabhas.
He was awarded India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna in 2015.