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President, PM pay tributes to Bakht

By Our Special Correspondent



The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, paying homage to the Kerala Governor, Sikander Bakht, in Delhi on Tuesday. The Kerala Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, is at right. — PTI

NEW DELHI, FEB. 24. The Governor of Kerala, Sikander Bakht, was laid to rest here this evening with full State honours. The President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, the Vice-President, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and the Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, were among the first to pay floral tributes after his body was brought here from Thiruvananthapuram by a special flight this afternoon.

As a mark of respect, the Central Government decided to fly the tricolour at half-mast for the day. The body was received at the airport by Mr. Advani and the Union Minister of State for Defence, O. Rajagopal, who accompanied it to the Kerala House, where it was kept for a couple of hours before the funeral.

The Kerala Chief Minister, A.K. Antony, along with the Chief Secretary and the Director-General of Police of the State, accompanied the body and the Governor's family members to Delhi. Among those who paid their last tributes to Mr. Bakht were the former President, K. R. Narayanan, the former Prime Minister, I.K. Gujral, the Deputy Chairperson of the Rajya Sabha, Najma Heptullah, the Governor of Rajasthan, Madan Lal Khurana, a host of Central Ministers, the president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Venkaiah Naidu, the former Lok Sabha Speaker, P.A. Sangma, the AICC general secretary for Kerala, Ahmed Patel, besides other Congress leaders.

A large number of family members and associates of Mr. Bakht turned up at the Kerala House and the Mehdiyan Kabaristan to offer tributes.

Condolence messages poured in with the President recalling Mr. Bakht's contribution to public life as a Minister in the Union Government, a parliamentarian and Governor. "In his death we have lost a prominent public personality and a statesman,'' Mr. Kalam said.

Stating that he had lost a "colleague of longstanding," the Prime Minister, in his message, said: "Mr. Bakht was a freedom-fighter. He was also in the Congress for many years. He later became a prominent leader of the Janata Party and then the Bharatiya Janata Party. He struggled for democracy and the nationalist cause with courage and conviction. He rendered distinguished service as a member of my Cabinet for sometime.''The BJP president said Mr. Bakht was one of the founder leaders of the BJP. "He was a sincere and a honest politician. He brought dignity and decorum to the positions he held, including the Governorship of Kerala. He was a nationalist to the core, a genuine secularist and above all finest human being. His death is a big loss to the country and the nationalist movement.''

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