New Delhi, March 28, 2015 (Agencies) In a departure from protocol, President Pranab Mukherjee drove to former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s Krishna Menon Marg residence on Friday to confer him Bharat Ratna — the highest civilian award.

Vajpayee, who has been away from public life for about eight years owing to his illness, was honoured in a brief simple ceremony attended among others by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Vice President Mohammad Hamid Ansari, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, BJP chief Amit Shah, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and former prime minister Manmohan Singh and chief ministers of several states. 

Ninety-one-year-old Vajpayee’s foster son-in-law Ranjan Bhattacharya and his wife Namita welcomed top dignitaries at their decked up residence. Though SPG protects Vajpayee by virtue of being former PM, the area surrounding his Krishna Menon Marg house was sealed due to presence of VVIPs. Except for the Doordarshan and ANI, journalists were barred from entering his house.   

Rich tributes from politicians of different parties recognising Vajpayee’s contribution to the country and polity poured throughout the day. Respected by many as a statesman and an iconic leader of recent times, the BJP’s moderate face was equally admired for his oratory skills, humour and poetry. He is the only non-Congress PM to have been honoured with Bharat Ratna.

Modi said Vajpayee dedicated his entire life for the country and was grateful to the President for coming to the veteran party leader’s house to give hand over the award.  Modi acknowledged that the veteran party leader was “a source of inspiration for million of workers like him”. 

Born on December 25, 1924, Vajpayee first became PM in 1996 but his government lasted only 13 days due to lack of majority. His second stint in power in 1998 could not go beyond 13 months because AIADMK withdrew support from the NDA coalition government. He came back again in 1999 with the support of NDA allies and completed full five-year term, notching up many achievements.

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