The President and the Prime Minister led the nation in mourning the five-time Prime Minister of Nepal and friend of India, Girija Prasad Koirala on Saturday.

The Indian government will be represented at Sunday's funeral by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

From the Bharatiya Janata Party, its former president Rajnath Singh will attend. Leaders from other parties, including CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Sitaram Yechury, are also slated to attend the funeral. In their messages to Nepalese Deputy Prime Minister and his daughter Sujata Koirala, President Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Mr. Krishna lauded Mr. Koirala's contribution to fostering and strengthening close and friendly relations between the two countries. They recalled his “contribution and tireless dedication” to the cause of peace and democracy in Nepal.

Having known Mr. Koirala for decades, the Prime Minister called up Ms. Koirala and conveyed his condolences. Dr. Singh described him as one of Nepal's tallest leaders and elder statesman of South Asia. “Beginning with his days in the trade union, he spent his entire political life championing the cause of the people. He was first and foremost a democrat and his long struggle to usher in democracy in Nepal reached a successful conclusion when he became the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Nepal in 1991,” recalled Dr. Singh.

The former Nepalese Prime Minister had an “enlightened vision” of India-Nepal relations and worked sincerely to bring the people of the two countries closer together. “I have personally had a long association with Mr. Koirala and have benefited immensely from his wise counsel and advice not only on issues affecting our bilateral ties but also on matters affecting South Asia as a whole,” added Dr. Singh.

Agency reports quoted Mr. Yechury as terming the Nepali Congress patriarch's death a “great loss to democracy” in South Asia. “At this particular time when Nepal is going through a historic transformation towards the formation of a Republic, his role will be sorely missed.”

BJP president Nitin Gadkari said Mr. Koirala was a political leader of great stature. Party spokesperson Ramnath Kovind said he was a “tall leader who tried his best to have friendly relations with India.”

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