| PV Narasimha Rao's body lies in state at his residence in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Dec. 23: Manmohan Singh called him a 'father figure'. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam described him as a 'great son of India'. And Atal Bihari Vajpayee said his death marked the 'end of an era'.
P.V. Narasimha Rao may have gone from the heights of political power to the humiliation of three criminal charges, but the tributes that poured in today after his death underlined his 'imprint', as both rivals and friends put it.
The Centre has declared a seven-day national mourning for the former Prime Minister, who will be given a state funeral. The cremation, on December 25, will most probably be at Hyderabad's Swami Ramanandatirtha Institute of Rural Development, where a memorial to Rao's political guru is located. Rao had expressed a wish to be cremated there.
The end came at 2.40 this afternoon when doctors attending on Rao, 83, pronounced him dead at AIIMS where he was admitted following coronary complications. Rao died of cardiac arrest after suffering a second heart attack in the early hours of the morning following which he had been put on dialysis. Prabhakar Rao, the youngest of his three sons, was at his bedside.
As Rao's admirers trooped to his 9, Motilal Nehru Marg residence, where his body was brought, the President and the Prime Minister led the nation in paying rich tributes to him.
Kalam, who had visited Rao in hospital, said: 'In his death, we have lost a great leader.'
Singh described Rao as the 'father of economic reforms'. 'Raoji was a true patriot, a nationalist to the core, a visionary, a builder, a reformer and, without doubt, a statesman.'
Singh later chaired a cabinet meeting, which adopted a condolence resolution. 'Rao leaves his imprint in various areas of our national life... His sensitivity and love for music, the arts marked him as an exceptional human being,' the resolution said.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said the country has lost a veteran parliamentarian.
Vajpayee, who took pride in calling Rao his 'guru', said the former Prime Minister guided the nation through the difficult early nineties.
The RSS, too, paid tributes to Rao. RSS chief K.S. Sudarshan said: 'Despite ideological differences, Sangh leaders enjoyed a good rapport with him'. In Indian politics today, very few politicians can match his stature and scholarship.'
But in the rush of homage, one wish will remain unfulfilled. Union minister Arjun Singh, who had revolted against Rao in 1994, visited him at AIIMS. Moved, Rao had expressed a desire for a meeting with him once he left his hospital bed.
That will not happen now.