In death, Abdul Kalam gets all parties to share one stage
RAMESWARAM: In life and in death, APJ Abdul Kalam remained a figure who transcended political and social divisions. Parties from across the spectrum including BJP, Congress, AIADMK, Telugu Desam and PMK shared the stage on Thursday to pay homage to the ‘People’s President’ at the island of Rameswaram, which was his birthplace.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accompanied by his Cabinet colleagues Manohar Parrikar, Venkaiah Naidu and party leaders B S Yeddyurappa and Pon Radhakrishnan, watched the final rites from an enclosure. In an adjacent area was Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, flanked by his party heavyweights Ghulam Nabi Azad and chief ministers Oomen Chandy (Kerala) and Siddaramaiah (Karnataka).
O Panneerselvam and his cabinet colleagues represented the AIADMK delegation in the absence of chief minister J Jayalalithaa. DMDK leader Vijayakanth and his wife Premalatha were seated next to CPM leader V S Achuthananthan. G K Vasan, who split from Congress, was seated next to the party’s TN chief EVKS Elangovan. PMK’s Anbumani Ramadoss, could be seen chatting with Rahul Gandhi. On the other end, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu was engrossed in a conversation with Ghulam Nabi Azad. MDMK leader Vaiko was also present.
Barring the absence of state-level leaders from the north, it seemed a pan-India gathering at Paikarumbu, a sandy stretch dotted with shrubs along Rameswaram national highway, 5km away from the temple town.
“Kalam never identified himself on the basis of region, religion or language. He saw himself as a human being first and viewed everyone in the same way,” said Sheik Saleem, his grandnephew. The family was overwhelmed when hundreds, including state and national political leaders, surrounded the burial site and showered petals to pay their respect.
Rahul had come much earlier than Modi and the two were seated in separate enclosures. But when Rahul paid his floral tributes to Kalam and was returning to his seat, he greeted Modi as he walked past