Foster daughter Namita lights funeral pyre
The body arrived at 4. 50 pm and was kept for dignitaries to pay homage. As per the protocol, the chiefs of air force, navy and the army were the first to lay a wreath one by one.
Vajpayee was cremated with full state honour. His foster daughter Namita lit the pyre. This decision was left to the family, sources said. The national tricolour with which his body was draped was handed over with full honour to his foster grand daughter Niharika alias Neha Bhattacharya by the defence personnel.
Namita’s husband Ranjan Bhattacharya and other family members helped in the ceremony. Sources said Vajpayee's family had called some priests from his village Bateshwar, Agra to perform the ceremony along with priests from Delhi. Around 400 kg of sandalwood and other material were used in the cremation.
Vajpayee’s body was taken from the BJP headquarters to the cremation venue on Friday afternoon. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were among those who walked the distance with the carriage.
The body arrived at 4. 50 pm and was kept for dignitaries to pay homage. As per the protocol, the chiefs of air force, navy and the army were the first to lay a wreath one by one. Then minister of state for defence Shubash Bhamre and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid their respects, followed by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, and the Prime Minister.
President of India Ramnath Kovind and vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu also laid a wreath.
Veteran BJP leader and longtime Vajpayee associate LK Advani, Amit Shah, and former prime minister Manmohan Singh also laid a wreath.
Among those who attended the funeral were RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, RSS general secretary Suresh Bhaiyyaji Joshi, senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi, Congress president Rahul Gandhi and SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Other present on the occasion include Shiromani Akali Dal leaders Sukhbir and Harsimrat Badal, Trinamool leaders Dinesh Trivedi and Shukhendu Shekhar Roy, former BJP leader Shankar Sinh Vaghela.
As the pyre burnt, Namita and her daughter Neha were seen holding each other. Neha, who was very close to Vajpayee, got emotional a few times during the cremation.
Preparations for the ceremony had begun early on Friday with BJP office bearers and leaders, Delhi police and defence personnel reaching Smriti Sthal to oversee the work. The venue had to be done up for the funeral and several people were pressed into service since early afternoon. Defence personnel did a dry run of the ceremony to avoid any faux pas.
As the pyre burnt, Namita and her daughter Neha were seen holding each other. Chants of Jai Shri Ram and Bharat Mata ki Jai rent the air during the cremation.
Meanwhile, two cabinet ministers said a memorial dedicated to Vajpayee is likely to come up soon and the issue was discussed during the emergency cabinet meeting held soon after Vajpayee’s death on Thursdayevening.
A formal decision on the issue and allocation of land will be done in the coming days. Around 1.5 acres of land next to the memorial of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri may be allocated for the purpose, sources said.