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Wednesday, October 03, 2001

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Poignant farewell at AICC office

By Javed M. Ansari

NEW DELHI, OCT. 2. The AICC headquarters, an intrinsic part of Mr. Madhavrao Scindia's past in the last two decades and a beacon, as many imagined, to the bright future that lay ahead of him, today bid a poignant farewell to one of its brightest leaders.

The party headquarters at 24, Akbar Road wore a sorrowful look with mournful music in the background, the smell of incense filling the air. Thousands of party workers, Mr. Scindia's admirers and supporters and the entire Congress leadership were at hand to receive the body.

The Congress president, Ms. Sonia Gandhi, arrived early and supervised arrangements in the hall where the body was to be kept. As soon as Mr. Scindia's body left his 27, Safdarjung Road house atop a flower bedecked truck, she, along with the entire Congress leadership, lined up in the AICC driveway to receive it.

The body arrived close to 9 a.m. accompanied by son, Mr. Jyotiraditya Scindia, son-in-law, Mr. Vikramaditya, and the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. Digvijay Singh. The body was then carried into the hall by senior party leaders and CWC members Mr. Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mr. Natwar Singh, Mr. Mukul Wasnik, Mr. Fotedar and Mr. Digvijay Singh. Ms. Gandhi, her arm around Ms. Scindia, personally escorted members of the Scindia family into the hall. Slogans hailing Mr. Scindia rent the air.

Once inside the hall, the body was placed on a elevated platform and kept draped in a Congress flag as leaders and workers filed past the body. Ms. Gandhi was the first to offer flowers and later all the CWC, CEC, AICC office-bearers, party MPs and Chief Ministers went up one by one to offer their respects.

Prominent amongst those who came to pay their respects were Ms. Priyanka Gandhi and her husband Mr. Robert Vadra, the Pakistan High Commissioner, Mr. Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the RSS chief, Mr. K.R. Sudershan, and the VHP spokesperson, Mr. M.G. Vaidya. Thousands of workers had lined up outside and slowly filed past the body. Mr. Digvijay Singh who had flown in from London kept shaking his head in disbelief. Mr. Singh and Mr. Scindia were both contemporaries and shared a love-hate relationship, but today Mr. Singh appeared emotionally overwhelmed.

After an hour, Mr. Scindia's body was carried back to the truck by party leaders. Ms. Gandhi escorted Ms. Scindia, her daughter and other members of the family to the car which was to take them to the airport for the journey to Gwalior. The two women who had till then maintained a hold over their emotions, momentarily lost their composure and broke down as Ms. Scindia hugged Ms. Gandhi.

Mr. Scindia's body was then taken away from the Congress headquarters, of the party he served with great distinction. The image of the man was reflected in the portrait atop the truck, wearing his trademark smile. And then he was gone. For the last time.

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