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    PM, Sonia, Advani pay homage to Sai Baba

    New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader LK Advani joined millions of people in offering their condolences on the passing away of Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

    Manmohan Singh described the Sai Baba as a "spiritual leader and an iconic figure who inspired millions".

    Advani said that Sai Baba guided him in several ways and called him a great soul.

    "Since times immemorial in India leadership of society in spiritual field has commanded greatest respect. Even in modern India when people think in terms of ideals one thinks of sages like Mahatma and others. In modern India there would be few who would have phenomenal following that Sathya Sai Baba had. I first came in contact with him during Emergency in Bangalore. I have been meeting him frequently and the meetings have been inspirational for me. It was guiding. I last met him in Puttaparthi few months back. The nation has been plunged in darkness. I offer homage to this great soul. I would like to go for the last rites," said Advani.

    Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: I pay my tributes to Pujya Satya Sai Baba on his Nirvana.

    All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief J Jayalalithaa said that Sathya Sai Baba's passing away is a huge loss to the mankind.

    Former Union home minister and Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil said Baba was a great soul.

    "What he did is very important for helping the people who were suffering from disease and to educate them," Patil said.

    Sathya Sai Baba, one of India's most influential spiritual leaders, breathed his last at a hospital funded by his organisation in his home town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh on Sunday. He was 85.