Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday paid floral tributes to Parkash Singh Badal at the Shiromani Akali Dal office in Chandigarh as scores of people and political leaders assembled to pay homage to the five-time Punjab chief minister.
Badal had not been keeping well and was admitted to the Fortis Hospital in Mohali on April 16 after he complained of uneasiness in breathing. He died on Tuesday aged 95.
The Punjab government has declared a holiday on Thursday as a mark of respect to the former chief minister.
According to an official order, all government offices, departments, boards, corporations and educational institutions in the state will remain shut on Thursday.
The central government has already announced two days of state mourning on April 26 and 27 across India as a mark of respect to the former chief minister.
The mortal remains of the Shiromani Akali Dal patriarch, who straddled Punjab politics for over seven decades, were brought to the party head office in Chandigarh in an ambulance. Grief-stricken party supporters stood in queues at the SAD headquarters to have a glimpse of their leader for the last time as chants of "Sardar Parkash Singh ji Badal amar rahe (Long live Parkash Singh ji Badal)" rent the air.
Former Haryana chief minister OP Chautala could be seen in tears as he paid his last respects to the SAD patriarch.
The Chautalas and the Badals, the two powerful political families in Haryana and Punjab, have long-standing ties as Badal was a close friend of former deputy prime minister Chaudhary Devi Lal.
Chautala later called Badal a "messiah of farmers".
After arriving in Chandigarh, Modi reached the SAD office accompanied by Punjab Governor Banwarilal Purohit and Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
He laid a wreath on the mortal remains of Badal and then sat beside SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal. The prime minister was seen holding the hands of Sukhbir Singh Badal, expressing grief over the passing away of the SAD chief's father.
Modi stayed at the SAD office for a few minutes.
Punjab finance minister Harpal Singh Cheema, education minister Harjot Singh Bains, Congress leader Partap Singh Bajwa, former Punjab chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi, and Patiala MP Preneet Kaur who is the wife of former CM Amarinder Singh, BJP leader Sunil Jakhar, former Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani, Punjab BJP chief Ashwani Sharma, also paid homage to the departed soul.
Badal's son-in-law Adesh Partap Singh Kairon, grandson Anantvir Singh Badal, Bikram Singh Majithia, Daljit Singh Cheema, Balwinder Singh Bhundar, Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee chief Harjinder Singh Dhami, former SGPC chief Jagir Kaur and BSP leader Jasvir Singh Garhi were also present at the SAD head office.
Union Minister Som Parkash and former minister Balbir Singh Sidhu expressed their condolences to Badal's son and SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal at the private hospital where the former Punjab chief minister breathed his last. Former minister Manpreet Singh Badal, the estranged nephew of senior Badal, was also present.
Both Sukhbir and Manpreet were seen beside the mortal remains of Badal at the hospital.
Former chief minister Rajinder Kaur Bhattal, Haryana Assembly Speaker Gian Chand Gupta and Congress leader Lal Singh were among the leaders who reached the SAD office to pay their floral tributes.
The mortal remains of the SAD patriarch were kept at the party head office in Chandigarh for a few hours for people to pay their tributes to the departed soul. Later in the day, the mortal remains were taken to the former chief minister's native village Badal in Muktsar via Rajpura, Patiala, Sangrur, Barnala, Rampura Phul, and Bathinda in an ambulance.
The ambulance, bedecked with flowers, was driven by Bikram Singh Majithia with Sukhbir Singh Badal sitting beside him. Enroute to Muktsar, party supporters and people showered flower petals on the ambulance at several places.
The cremation will take place at Badal village in Muktsar at 1 pm on Thursday, a party leader said.
Senior Akali leader Balwinder Singh Bhundar said Badal's death was the biggest loss for the country while former Punjab chief minister Channi said Badal was a big personality and a great leader who fought for Punjab and Punjabiyat.
MP Preneet Kaur said Badal had immense patience and was soft-hearted and political leaders should learn this trait. Punjab Finance Minister Cheema remembered Badal's great contribution to Punjab's politics.
The grand old man of Punjab politics first became chief minister in 1970, heading a coalition government that did not complete its term.
He was also the CM in 1977-80, 1997-2002, 2007-12 and 2012-2017.
He was MLA 11 times, losing an election for the state assembly only twice.