New Delhi: Congress President Sonia Gandhi on Friday expressed deep grief over the death of former Prime Minister I K Gujral, who she hailed for his ability, sagacity and deep understanding of national and international affairs.

In a  letter to his son Naresh Gujral, who is a Rajya Sabha member from Akali Dal, Gandhi said that the late leader had the ability to win goodwill and friendship across the political spectrum.

"It is these qualities and the genuine warmth of his personality that made him such a widely admired and respected Prime Minister of India, Cabinet minister, MP and ambassador," she said.

Gandhi, who is also UPA Chaiperson, said that the departed leader lived a long and full life and contributed richly to several aspects of India's progress and development.

"We will always honour his memory. He had long association with our family and I know how much Indiraji valued him, both personally and as a colleague," she said.

In her letter, Gandhi said she was deeply saddened to learn about the death of his father, adding, "At this time of grief my thoughts are with you and your family".

In his condolence message, Vice President Hamid Ansari said that Gujral was a distinguished leader and an outstanding public figure, who served the country in various capacities including as External Affairs Ministers and Ambassador to the USSR with dedication, honesty and patriotism.

"He is fondly remembered by all who knew him as a warm, compassionate and friendly human being. In his death, India has lost an eminent son, whose absence will be felt for all times to come. We pay homage to the departed soul and salute his services to our motherland.

"My wife joins me in sending our heartfelt condolences to the members of the bereaved family. We pray to the almighty to grant them the strength and fortitude to withstand this loss," Ansari said. Ansari also cancelled a lunch which was to be hosted by him on Saturday.

A release from his office said that due to the demise of Gujral, the scheduled lunch to be hosted by the Vice President on December 1 stands cancelled.


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