New Delhi: Former finance minister Arun Jaitley was cremated at the Nigambodh Ghat here with full State honours on Sunday in the presence of relatives, top leaders from across the political spectrum and scores of his admirers and party workers.
Skies opened up as Jaitley's son Rohan lit the pyre amid chanting of vedic hymns. Hundreds of mourners had converged at the cremation ground along the banks of the Yamuna river to bid final farewell to the 66-year-old BJP stalwart who passed away at the AIIMS here on Saturday.
Senior leaders laid wreaths on the mortal remains and a gun salute was given before the last rites. Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, BJP veteran LK Advani, party president and Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, party's working president J P Nadda, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Smriti Irani and Anurag Thakur, BJP MPs including Vijay Goel and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kapil Sibal, NCP leader Praful Patel were among those present.
A visibly emotional Naidu, who had worked closely with Jaitley in the BJP, stood with folded hands for several minutes near the body. Chief ministers of Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttarakhand, Arvind Kejriwal, Devendra Fadnavis, Vijay Rupani, B S Yediyurappa, Nitish Kumar and Trivendra Singh Rawat respectively, were also there.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is on a foreign visit, had on Saturday paid an emotional tribute to Jaitley, saying he cannot imagine that he was far away from India in Bahrain while his "dear friend" and party colleague passed away in New Delhi.
Wrapped in the national flag, Jaitley's body was brought at around 11 am to the BJP headquarters located on the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg from his Kailash Colony residence. BJP workers queued up in large numbers outside the party headquarters since morning to pay their last respects to the leader.
A steady stream of mourners — from partymen to common people including schoolchildren — filed past the body which was kept there for over two-and-a-half hours. Party workers remembered Jaitley as a leader who always helped them when they were in need.
"I used to go to his house along with a party leader. He was a very decent and friendly person who hardly said no to any request for help by party workers," said Dildar Hussain, a BJP worker from Jama Masjid area.
A BJP worker from Girideeh in Jharkhan, Raj Kishore, who waited patiently outside the BJP office to pay homage to Jaitley, termed him as a "sober" politician who never hurt anyone with his words or deeds. "His conduct and his manners were impeccable. I have heard several stories of how he helped ordinary party workers whenever they approached him," Kishore said.
Similar sentiments were expressed by many party leaders and workers who thronged the BJP headquarters to pay homage to the departed leader. As the body was taken to the cremation ground in a flower-decked gun carriage, slogans of 'Jaitley ji amar rahein' (long live Jaitley) rent the air. Shah, Nadda, Singh and other leaders followed the carriage in their cars from party headquarters to the Nigambodh ghat.
(With inputs from PTI)