New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday led the nation in paying respects to former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, who rose from humble beginnings to become one of India’s leading scientists and later a hugely popular president.
Leaders from across the political spectrum, including Congress president Sonia Gandhi, BJP president Amit Shah and Lok Janshakti Party president and union minister Ram Vilas Paswan paid their tributes to Kalam who was president in 2002-07.
Home Minister Rajnath Singh was among the first to pay his tributes.
Officials said a meeting of the union cabinet would be held on Tuesday to pay formal condolences to Kalam.
Leaders including Vice President Hamid Ansari, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and former prime minister Manmohan Singh recalled their personal association with Kalam.
Kalam breathed his last at 7.45 p.m. at Bethany Hospital where he was rushed to from the IIM-Shillong where he was delivering a lecture.
President Mukherjee said the death of Bharat Ratna Kalam was “a deep personal loss”.
He said Kalam was “a people’s president” during his lifetime and will remain so even after his death.
“As president of India, Dr. Kalam was immensely popular and greatly admired. His warmth, humility and simple ways endeared him to one and all. He had a special love for children and sought to constantly inspire the youth of our country through motivational speeches and personal interaction,” the president said.
He said Kalam will be long remembered for his passion for science and innovation and his contributions as an eminent scientist, administrator, educationist and writer.
“In his passing away, we have lost a great son of India who dedicated his entire life for the welfare of the motherland and its people,” he said.
In his message, Modi said: “India mourns the loss of a great scientist, a wonderful president and above all an inspiring individual.”
Modi said he learnt a lot from Kalam. “My mind is filled with so many memories, so many interactions with him. Always marvelled at his intellect, learnt so much from him.”
Modi said Kalam enjoyed being with people. “People and youngsters adored him. He loved students and spent his final moments among them.”
Sonia Gandhi said Kalam was “one of the greatest scientific minds and a scholar statesman” and one of India’s iconic leaders.
Manmohan Singh, who worked with Kalam as prime minister, said he greatly benefited from the advice of the late leader.
“In his death, our country has lost a great human being who made phenomenal contribution to the promotion of self reliance in defence technologies. I worked very closely with Dr. Kalam as Prime Minister and I greatly benefitted from his advice as President of our country.
“His life and work will be remembered for generations to come,” he said.
Rahul Gandhi said Kalam was a man of many parts — a scientist, an inventor, a visionary thinker and a teacher. “He will be missed dearly and remembered fondly by every Indian.”
Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani said Kalam “served Mother India literally until the last breath”.
Union ministers Najma Heptullah, Piyush Goyal, Prakash Javadekar, M. Venkaiah Naidu and Nitin Gadkari, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa, and Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy were among leaders who paid their respects to Kalam.