New Delhi: Hundreds of people chanted “Atal Bihari Amar Rahe” as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee left home for the last time Friday and his cortege made its way through the city to reach the BJP headquarters, where leaders gathered in large numbers to pay their homage.
A decorated gun carriage carrying the mortal remains of Vajpayee, who died here last evening, left his home on Krishna Menon Marg around 10 am and reached the party’s headquarters at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg, about five kilometres away, around 11 am.
A huge crowd gathered outside the BJP headquarters, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP president Amit Shah and a host of ministers and party workers gathered to pay their last respects to the late leader, mourned by them and the opposition as one of India’s tallest leaders.
The air was solemn as Vajpayee’s body, draped in the tricolour, was placed on a platform draped in white flowers. Hundreds of people filed past the body in silence, with a large portrait of a smiling Vajpayee in the backdrop.
Vajpayee, 93, passed away at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here last evening after prolonged illness. He will be accorded a state funeral.
The funeral procession will leave the BJP headquarters at 1 pm and the last rites will be performed at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal at 4 pm.
Seen as a moderate face of BJP, Vajpayee’s first became prime minister in 1996, leading a shaky coalition whose members were suspicious of the BJP’s right-wing politics. It lasted for 13 days and collapsed after losing a vote of no-confidence.
His second stint as prime minister was in 1998 when the National Democratic Alliance again came to power but that lasted for just 13 months.
Finally, the NDA with Vajpayee as PM returned to power in 1999 and was voted out in 2004.
Earlier this morning, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Army Chief Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba and RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat paid homage to the former prime minister at his official residence.
In view of the funeral procession, several roads in the national capital have been closed for the public later in the day.
Some roads closed from 8 am include Krishna Menon Marg, Sunehri Bagh Road, Tughlak Road, Akbar Road, Tees January Marg, Man Singh Road, Bhagwan Dass Road, Shahjahan Road and Sikandara Road.
DDU Marg, IP Marg, BSZ Marg (from Tilak Bridge to Delhi Gate), JLN Marg (from Rajghat to Delhi Gate) will also be closed, the traffic police said.
Commuters have been advised to use Aurobindo Marg, Safdarjung Road, Mother Teresa Crescent, Park Street, Mandir Marg to travel between north and south Delhi.
Those travelling between east and west Delhi can use Vikas Marg, Shahdara Bridge and Wazirabad Bridge to reach Ring Road.