NEW DELHI: Around 3.10 pm, the skies above the cremation ground at Nigambodh Ghat opened up, first slowly and then in a drenching downpour, just as hundreds of emotional mourners watched the flames leap up from the pyre bearing the mortal remains of former finance minister and BJP stalwart Arun Jaitley who passed away on Saturday.
The dark clouds and the rain seemed a fitting farewell for a well loved leader who touched the lives of thousands in his various roles as lawyer, an influential minister, experienced sports administrator and political communicator. The pyre was lit by son Rohan as an unending line of notables and BJP workers paid their last respects.
The draft sweeping the cremation grounds on the banks of a Yamuna swollen with monsoon waters fanned the flames that consumed Jaitley's mortal remains as a Delhi Police guard fired a ceremonial farewell. Earlier, the leader's body arrived draped in a national flag from the BJP headquarters at DDU Marg.
A large crowd of mourners, which included dozens of family members, political colleagues and friends, bid Jaitley a tearful farewell. His long-time associates like India TV head Rajat Sharma, former law officers Mukul Rohatgi and Maninder Singh were next to the pyre. The bier was brought to the pyre by son Rohan and others, including BJP leaders Ravi Shankar Prasad and Anurag Thakur. Members of Jaitley's staff, who have worked with him for years, were also present.
The narrow passage to the pyre and the covered seating was inadequate to accommodate the people who turned up on Sunday afternoon. Among those present to offer their tributes were Vice President Venkaiah Naidu, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, BJP veteran L K Advani, party president and home minister Amit Shah, defence minister Rajnath Singh , BJP working president J P Nadda, Union ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Dharmendra Pradhan, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Anurag Thakur, BJP MPs Vijay Goel and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Kapil Sibal and NCP leader Praful Patel.
Chief ministers of Delhi, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka, Bihar and Uttarakhand - Arvind Kejriwal, Devendra Fadnavis, Vijay Rupani, B S Yediyurappa, Nitish Kumar and Trivendra Singh Rawat - were also present.
Among those who paid their respects were Supreme Court judges Rohington Nariman and Sanjay Kishen Kaul. The late Atal Bihari Vajpayee 's daughter Namita Bhattacharya and her husband Ranjan were also there. The large number of lawyers who attended the cremation included Jaitley's old associates like Raian Karanjawala. There were a large number of television and print journalists who had known Jaitley over the years.
The rains subsided after around 40 minutes to a moderate drizzle and the crowd began to leave, offering their condolences to Jaitley's wife Sangeeta and daughter Sonali. There was a long jam outside the cremation grounds as mourners departed.
Speaking in Bahrain on Saturday evening, PM Narendra Modi paid an emotional tribute to Jaitley, saying he had lost a dear friend and colleague and recalled that they had mapped their political journey together, sharing ideas and visions and overcoming challenges. He said his responsibilities prevented him from being in India even though he had lost someone he knew from his days in Delhi as a political worker.
Jaitley's body was brought to the BJP headquarters located on Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Marg from his Kailash Colony residence around 11 am. BJP workers queued up outside BJP headquarters since morning. A steady stream of mourners - from partymen to common people including schoolchildren - paid their last respects to the leader.