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CPI-M leader Surjeet cremated

August 03, 2008 18:25 IST

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Hundreds of comrades, friends and admirers on Sunday bid an emotional adieu to Marxist veteran Harkishan Singh Surjeet [Images] as his mortal remains were consigned to the flames in New Delhi [Images].

Amid slogans of 'Lal Salam' and 'Long Live Comrade Surjeet', Parmajeet Singh, the elder son of the 92-year-old leader, lit the funeral pyre at the Nigambodh Ghat in Delhi at 5:20 pm in the presence of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi [Images], Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Prakash Karat [Images], and family members, including his wife Pritam Kaur, two sons and a daughter.

Before the funeral pyre was lit, Delhi police personnel fired thrice in air in a mark of respect to the departed leader and played the band.

The party's red volunteers also gave a guard of honour to Surjeet, whose body was wrapped in a party flag.

Carrying CPI-M flags and posters of Surjeet, hundreds of party workers, including from Kerala [Images], West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh [Images], and people from his native village in Punjab were also present at the cremation.

Apart from senior CPI-M leaders, Union Ministers Shivraj Patil [Images], Saifuddin Soz and S Jaipal Reddy, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati [Images], former prime ministers I K Gujral and H D Deve Gowda, CPI leaders A B Bardhan and D Raja, Congress leader Ahmed Patel and Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu [Images] were also present.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav [Images] and general secretary Amar Singh [Images] were also there at the cremation ground.

Surjeet breathed his last on August 1 at a hospital in neighbouring Noida after battling illness for a long time.

The final journey of Surjeet, the former CPI-M general decretary who was credited for heralding coalition politics at the Centre, began from the party headquarters on Sunday afternoon after a host of leaders of political parties paid their homage to the departed soul. 

The procession had 92 red volunteers, signifying Surjeet's age, in front of the vehicle carrying the Marxist leader's remains, followed by CPI-M leaders including Karat, Sitaram Yechury and other politburo and central committee members.

A large number of people started pouring into Surjeet's 8 Teen Murti Lane residence on Sunday morning and later at the CPI-M headquarters after his body was brought from AIIMS.

Vice President Hamid Ansari, Home Minister Shivraj Patil and Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav [Images] were among the first to reach his residence as leaders from across the political spectrum came to have the last glimpse of the Marxist leader.

"Surjeet is not among us but his principles will always remain with us. We hope that we can continue to work for the development of the country along with those who believe in his thoughts," Patil told reporters in Delhi.

Calling Surjeet the "real angel for the poor and working class", Lalu said, "We all offer 'Lal Salam' to him."

Union Minister T R Baalu, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, former foreign minister K Natwar Singh, Rashrtriya Lok Dal chief Ajit Singh, People's Democratic Party leader Mufti Mohammad Sayeed and former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh also came to his residence.

Defence Minister A K Antony, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan, former prime minister I K Gujral and H D Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party Mulayam Singh Yadav and BJP leaders Arun Jaitley and V K Malhotra were also among those who visited CPI-M office to pay homage to the departed soul.

While Antony remembered Surjeet as "a leader who could always be approached for guidance", Janata Dal-United chief Sharad Yadav termed his departure as "an end of an era".

MDMK chief Vaiko and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu also paid homage to the veteran leader at the CPI-M office.

Paswan described Surjeet as a leader who fought since his prime as an "revolutionary. "I had a long association with Surjeet with whom I shared a father-son relationship."

BJP spokesperson Vijay Malhotra said Surjeet was "a great leader and a great worker and the void left by his demise will never be filled."

The representatives of Iranian and Vietnamese embassies also placed wreaths.

Surjeet donned many a role from a revolutionary to a pragmatic politician and a king-maker, but his dream of seeing a Communist as prime minister remained unfulfilled despite coming to a sniffing distance.

Known for his skills in managing coalition politics, Surjeet strove all his life for the party to make inroads into the cow belt to remove the party's tag as a mere three-state phenomenon and to make it a power to reckon with at the national level.

But he will be remembered largely for preparing the cadre-based party to mend fences with arch-rival Congress to form a non-Congress Third Front government at the Centre for keeping the "communal" BJP at bay and then bringing a Congress-led government in Delhi eight years later in 2004.

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