Atal Bihari Vajpayee funeral LIVE updates: Former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was cremated with full state honours at Smriti Sthal on the banks of the Yamuna in Delhi. His adopted daughter Namita Bhattacharya lit the funeral pyre and the poet-politician was given a gun salute. His body was shifted from his residence to the BJP headquarters this morning, where scores of leaders, cutting across party lines, paid tribute to the leader through the day. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah walked beside the coffin as it was brought to Smriti Sthal. Vajpayee, a stalwart of the BJP, passed away on Thursday after battling a prolonged illness at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS). He was 93. The charismatic leader is survived by his adopted daughter Namita Kaul Bhattacharya. The government has announced seven days of state mourning, and the national flag will be flown at half-mast for seven days across the country.
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Calling Vajpayee’s death a “personal loss”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it marks the end of an era. He said the BJP patriarch lived for the nation and served it assiduously for decades while noting that it was Vajpayee’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century. “Atal Ji’s passing away is a personal and irreplaceable loss for me. I have countless fond memories of him. He was an inspiration to Karyakartas like me. I will particularly remember his sharp intellect and outstanding wit. It was Atal Ji’s exemplary leadership that set the foundations for a strong, prosperous and inclusive India in the 21st century. His futuristic policies across various sectors touched the lives of each and every citizen of India,” Modi tweeted. He said it was due to Vajpayee’s perseverance and struggles that the BJP was built brick by brick.
Vajpayee was awarded India’s highest civilian award, the Bharat Ratna, in March 2015. During his second term as prime minister, Vajpayee ordered nuclear tests in May 1998 in a strategic masterstroke to blunt Pakistan’s nuclear ambitions. He followed this up with peace overtures to Pakistan, riding on the first direct bus from India to Pakistan in February 1999.