Monday, November 29, 1999

Nation mourns Shekhawat`s death

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New Delhi, May 15 (PTI) President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today led the nation in mourning the death of former Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat saying he was one of the "tallest" leaders who carved out a sterling career in public service. Former prime minister and BJP stalwart Atal Bihari Vajpayee said his former party colleague's death was an end of an era in Indian politics, as tributes poured from political leaders across the country. In his condolence message, Manmohan Singh said, "It is a tribute to Shekhawat's leadership qualities that he overcame the disadvantages of his early life to carve out a sterling career in public service." Singh said Shekawat was one of the tallest leaders that Rajasthan has produced. Echoing similar sentiments, President Pratibha Patil, who contested against Shekhawat in the 2007 Presidential polls, said, "Shekhawat was a personality who deeply understood the concerns and aspirations of the poorest of the poor." Describing Shekhawat as "Ajatshatru" and a mass leader attached to the grassroots, Vajpayee said, "I cannot bear his loss. His death has left me stunned" as he was a "close friend" with whom "I had seen many up and downs in politics". His death is the end of an era in Indian politics, the former premier said. Shekhawat's journey from a police personnel to Vice President of India was reflective of his hard work and determination, he said, adding that the late leader was one of the "founding pillars" of the erstwhile Jansangh which later became the BJP. The Prime Minister said as a social worker and public figure, Shekhawat who was thrice Chief Minister of Rajasthan, always stood up for his principles. "It was an exceptional courage of conviction which led him to condemn the 1982 Deorala incident of Sati at a time when a few in his party and state were willing to speak out against it", he said. The former Rajasthan Chief Minister's persona was one of rare charisma. "Together with a few others, he defined a whole era in the Bharatiya Janata Party. His many qualities of head and heart included a liberal outlook and generousity of spirit," the Prime Minister recalled. In her condolence message, Patil said Shekhawat's understanding of the desires of the common man was a result of his experiences early in his life when he had to give up his education to support his family following his father's death. Vice President Hamid Ansari who succeeded Shekhawat, said the late leader occupied with distinction the office of the Vice President and Chairman of the Rajya Sabha. "He earned the respect and admiration of the people for his dedication, sense of public service and innate simplicity. His services to the country shall always be remembered," he said.

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