NEW DELHI: BJP workers and mourners gathered in large numbers at the party headquarters in Delhi on Wednesday to pay their last respects to Sushma Swaraj, a veteran leader, former external affairs minister and "didi" to many of them.
Some cried inconsolably and others fought back tears as senior party leaders, including BJP president Amit Shah and working president J P Nadda, covered Swaraj's body with the national flag and paid their tributes.
Swaraj's husband and daughter saluted her as the mortal remains were kept on a hearse decorated with flowers at the BJP office on DDU Marg, before its final journey to Lodhi Road crematorium.
A leading face of BJP and its most prominent woman leader for decades, Swaraj died on Tuesday night at the age of 67.
The body was brought from her residence to the party office Wednesday.
Outside the party office, people chanted "Jab tak suraj chand rahega didi tera naam rahega" (Your name will endure as long as the Sun and the Moon exist)."
They jostled and waited for their turn to pay their last respects.
The security guards had a hard time managing them.
The party flag at the BJP headquarters flew at half-mast as a mark of respect to the departed leader.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar were among the party leaders who offered their tributes to Swaraj at the party office.
Several members of the Modi Cabinet, including Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Harsh Vardhan, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, Hardeep Singh Puri, Ravi Shankar Prasad, chief ministers of many states, and senior BJP leaders paid homage to Swaraj.
Among the crowd was Gyandeep Bharti, a UPSC aspirant, who said she was impressed by Swaraj's personality and how she went out of her way as external affairs minister to help people in distress.
There was also Salim Mansooru, who came from Sangam Vihar, remembered her for her humility and affection.
A group of flower sellers from R K Puram said they always gave her flowers on her birthday and have now come to offer flowers for one last time.
General (retired) V K Singh's wife Bharti Singh fondly remembered Sushma as a close family friend.
"Whenever General saheb went on foreign tour she would call me and assure don't worry, I am there," Singh said, referring her husband's role as junior foreign minister under Swaraj.
She had invited me and my husband at her residence on coming Friday but the fate snatched her away, she added.
The 96-year-old owner of MDH spice company Mahashay Dharampal Gulati wept as he paid homage to Swaraj.
Veteran politician Amar Singh called Swaraj his sister and said he found it hard to believe the sad news of her demise.
Swaraj's death has cast a pall of gloom across the nation and many people came from different parts of the country to pay respects.
Abhilash, a Kerala BJP member from its lawyers' association came all the way from Thiruvananthapuram to pay his respects.
"I knew her and we are deeply saddened by her loss," he said.
Women party workers Neeti Jain and Meena Bhati described Swaraj as an inspiration for them and added her demise was a great loss for them.