Sheikh Hasina, Sonia Gandhi pay tribute

Sheikh Hasina, Sonia Gandhi pay tribute

Escorted by West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Hasina came along with Ershad and a large group of cabinet ministers and other party leaders from her country to offer floral tributes to Basu, whose ancestral home is in Dhaka district. Wreaths were laid on behalf of President Pratibha Patil and Vice-President Hamid Ansari on Basu's body at the state assembly.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi placed a white wreath on the body of the Communist icon, stood for a while and then left. She was accompanied by union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. Former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani were also present to pay their last respects to Basu, who died Sunday at age 95.

Despite his staunch anti-Congress stand for most of his political life, Basu had played a key role in ensuring his Communist Party of India-Marxist's outside support to the Congress-led UPA government in 2004. Among others who offered floral tributes were  Jharkhand Chief Minister Shibu Soren, Rashtriya Janata Dal chief and former railways minister Lalu Prasad, Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu, union Minister for Urban Affairs Jaipal Reddy, Nationalist Congress Party chairman Sharad Pawar and former Lok Sabha speaker Somnath Chatterjee. The Venezuelan ambassador to India placed a wreath on behalf of his country's president Hugo Chavez. Diplomats from China and Bhutan also paid their respects.

Meanwhile, four armymen draped Basu's body in the Indian tricolour over the red party flag as part of according him state honours on his last journey. Basu becomes the first Communist leader and former chief minister to receive full state honours on his last journey. As Basu's body reached the West Bengal assembly building -- of which he was a member for over half a century -- passing through thronging crowds that poured in from different parts of the country, cries of "Long Live Jyoti Basu" rent the air. Representatives of the Sikh community also paid their tribute to Basu.

The love of the common man for the leader overarched the presence of the dignitaries. "I have come all the way from Jalpaiguri to see my leader for the last time. I have loved and respected him for the past 40 years," said 85-year-old Minati Mondal, breaking down. The body will be handed over to a state-run hospital in the evening for medical research, as per Basu's last wishes. He had also donated his eyes.

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