News headlines

Mumbai, May 3: Thousands of mourners on Thursday bid a tearful adieu to one of country's most promising politicians and Bharatiya Janata Party's master strategist Pramod Mahajan, who was cremated at the Shivaji Park crematorium in Mumbai with full state honours in the presence of several dignitaries, including Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

Slogans like Pramod Mahajan Amar Rahe (Long live Mahajan) and Jab Tak Sooraj Chand Rahega, Mahajan Tera Naam Rahega rent the air as mortal remains of the 57-year-old 'Gen Next' leader of the Opposition BJP was consigned to flames.

The former Union minister's son, Rahul, lit the funeral pyre amid chanting of Vedic hymns. The bugles sounded the last post and Maharashtra police personnel reversed their arms and fired in the air as a mark of respect to the leader, who died on Wednesday at the Hinduja Hospital in the city 12 days after his younger brother Pravin pumped three bullets into him.

Rahul hugged and consoled his sister Poonam as Mahajan's mortal remains went up in flames. Mahajan's brother Prakash, brother-in-law Gopinath Munde and close associate Sudhanshu Mittal broke down and were comforted by party leaders and workers.

Present at the cremation grounds to pay homage to the departed soul were Vice-President Shekhawat and a shocked BJP top brass led by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and leaders of Opposition L K Advani and Jaswant Singh.

The Central government was represented by Home Minister Shivraj Patil. Congress leader Motilal Vora, Union Minister Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief K S Sudarshan, Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia, National Democratic Alliance convener George Fernandes, Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and chief ministers of other BJP-ruled states and Sena leader Uddhav Thackeray were present, reflecting the late leader's popularity across the country's political spectrum.

A wreath on behalf of President A P J Abdul Kalam was placed on the casket containing Mahajan's body. Other leaders too offered floral tributes. While Mahajan's younger brother, Pravin, who shot him is in jail, his (Pravin's) wife and their children kept away from the cremation.

BJP president Rajnath Singh and son Rahul were among the pallbearers who kept the body in a flower-bedecked truck. Mahajan's body was brought to the cremation grounds in a funeral procession, which wound its way through the streets of Mumbai from his Worli residence, where he was shot at and injured by Pravin on April 22.

Relatives, senior leaders cutting across party lines and people from all walks of life made a beeline to his home where the body was brought on Thursday morning.

Industrialists Anil Ambani, Naresh Goyal, media baron and Rajya Sabha parliamentarian Vijay Darda, Lok Sabha parliamentarian Haren Pathak, Bollywood personalities Hema Malini, Poonam Dhillon, Madhur Bhandarkar, Ashok Pandit and Janmorcha president Raj Babbar were among the people who paid homage to the departed leader.


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