UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday led the Congress in paying rich tributes to Atal Bihari Vajpayee. "As my senior, he always encouraged and guided me in every possible manner", he said. "I will particularly remember his sharp intellect and outstanding wit". His condition worsened further on Wednesday evening with leaders from across the political spectrum thronging the hospital and enquiring about his health.
FILE PHOTO: Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (C) looks at a gift named "Portrait of the Qing Emperor Qianlong Reviewing" given to him by the Forbidden City in Beijing, China June 24, 2003.
"Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji amar rahe! He was a class apart", wrote Panda in a tweet.
"Today, India lost a great son".
A poet-politician, Vajpayee was one of the most popular leaders of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. My condolences to his family & all his admirers.
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Imprisoned along with other opposition leaders during the Emergency (1975-77), he merged the Jana Sangh into the newly-formed Janata Party to fashion a common front against the Congress in the 1977 elections.
Many paid solemn visits to the ailing Vajpayee in his final moments on Thursday, including Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj and Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
Shortly after the news spread that the veteran leader's health has deteriorated, people began flocking to temples to offer prayers and hold "havans" for his longevity. All government offices, schools and colleges to remain shut across the state. Bilateral agreements signed between his government and Moscow set the stage for annual summits which continue to this day, as does the close relationship with China he cultivated.
The funeral procession, which BJP sources said would be a spectacular one, will start at 1pm and the last rites would be conducted at the Rashtriya Smriti Sthal on the Yamuna's banks at 4pm.
Hearing him speak, India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru is believed to have told a visiting foreign dignitary of the young MP's huge promise, saying that he could be Prime Minister one day.