"Advani termed Munde's death as a big loss for the BJP."
New Delhi, June 3 - Shocked BJP workers and leaders of other parties gathered at the party's headquarters to pay homage to union Rural Development Minister Gopinath Munde, who died in a road accident here Tuesday morning.
Munde's body was brought in a wooden coffin on an army truck to the Bharatiya Janata Party's 11 Ashoka Road office that was in the grip of grief as leaders and workers paid their tributes to him.
Muffled cries of party leaders, workers and families coupled with the chanting of mantras blaring from loudspeakers filled the air.
Party workers raised slogans like Gopinath Munde amar rahe (May Gopinath Munde live forever) and Jab tak suraj, chand rahega, Munde tera naam rahega (Munde your name will forever be remembered).
The body, wrapped in a white sheet and covered in rose petals, was carried inside the office in a coffin wrapped in the Indian tricolour and was later placed in a glass-top casket which had the BJP flag on top.
The body lay in wait in a rectangular enclosure, barricaded from three sides, in a corner of the office under a pale yellow canopy with red carpets that had vivid patterns in white and black shade covering the ground.
A portrait of the leader hung from one of the canopy poles. A garland made of marigold flowers adorned the picture and in the backdrop was the party flag hoisted on a white mast.
The tragic accident that claimed Munde's life took place just a week after the new government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office and Munde was sworn-in as minister. It left many people in disbelief.
The BJP office was teeming with party workers and leaders as they paid their tributes to the leader who had toiled his way up the party ranks.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Lok Janshakti Party leader Ramvilas Paswan, BJP leaders L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Arun Jaitley were among those who paid their tributes to Munde.
Wreaths were laid on behalf of President Pranab Mukherjee and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh chief Mohan Bhagwat also paid his tribute to Munde.
Many of the leaders talked to distraught family members of Munde to console them. Many party workers had tears in their eyes.
Munde, who was among the tallest BJP leaders in Maharashtra, had served as the party's deputy leader in the 15th Lok Sabha.
A mass leader with a smiling disposition, Munde had many friends across parties.
Advani termed Munde's death as a big loss for the BJP.
Party leaders said they were informed by doctors at AIIMS that Munde died of cardiac arrest following the accident.