New Delhi: Vice President M Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and a host of dignitaries on Sunday condoled the passing away of Sathya Sai Baba, saying he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life.

They also lauded the work done by various institutions set up by the Baba to promote egalitarian values, education and public health.

The Baba's "words and actions have lit the lamp of love in the hearts of devotees. His message of service to humanity as service to God and as a means of destroying narrow- mindedness is of eternal relevance," Ansari said, adding, his message of love should be the guiding light in this trying hour.

Expressing "deep and profound sadness" over the death of the 86-year-old Baba in Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh, the Prime Minister said he was a spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a moral and meaningful life even as they followed the religion of their choice.

"Sri Sathya Saibaba as a preacher of the highest human values was an iconic figure for over five decades. He endeared himself to the people through various institutions, with headquarters at Prashanthi Nilayam, that promoted egalitarian values, education and public health," Singh said.

The Prime Minister said the Baba believed that it was the duty of every person to ensure that all people have access to the basic requirements for sustenance of life.

He was "an inspiration to people of all faiths," Singh said, adding that his passing away was an "irreparable loss to all."

Congress President Sonia Gandhi also condoled the death of the Baba.

"The news of the death of Sai Baba of Puttaparthi has greatly pained me. He was a spiritual person in whom lakhs of people had faith. In his lifetime, he inspired the people of this country and those abroad towards spiritualism and religion," she said in her condolence message.

The Congress president hailed Sai Baba's contribution towards establishment of institutions for social welfare and said these would be remembered for a long time.

"His death has caused a big vacuum. At this sad hour, I express my deep condolences to his followers," Gandhi said.

BJP leaders express profound grief

BJP leader L K Advani and Nitin Gadkari, in separate messages, expressed their profound grief and sorrow at the passing away of the Baba.

Advani said in modern times stalwarts like Swami Ramakrishna Paramhans, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Dayanand and Mahatma Gandhi are reckoned as ideals for the country and of the titans in the spiritual field in present day India, few have had the phenomenal following that the Baba had.

"I first came in contact with him shortly after my incarceration in the Bangalore Central Jail during the 1975-77 Emergency. After that I have been meeting him frequently. Along with my family, I had my last darshans of the saint a few months back when I visited Puttaparthi," he said.

Gadkari, who condoled the Baba's on his behalf and that of BJP, said, "The departure of such a great cultural and social icon of global fame from the spiritual world has left a void which will remain unfulfilled for a long time to come."

M’rashtra leaders condole Baba’s death

Union Ministers Vilasrao Deshmukh and Sushil Kumar Shinde, former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan condoled the Baba's death.

"It is a sad day for the entire world. It is hard to describe his deeds in words. We have lost a great pious personality. His contribution to social causes was immeasurable," Deshmukh, Union Rural Development Minister, said in a statement.

Union Power Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said Baba's passing away "is a tremendous loss for everyone. Organisations set up by him did a lot for providing free education, hospitals and other charitable works in India and abroad."

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Chavan, who has been an ardent devotee of the spiritual leader for the last 45 years, said the Baba would "continue to guide us and will always be a source of inspiration. His teachings will always be remembered. Baba worked selflessly for the mankind."

Chavan, who had hosted Sai Baba during his tenure as Chief Minister at his official residence 'Varsha', said he always received advice and guidance from the latter, which helped him to carry on, whenever he faced ups and downs.

Maharashtha Public Works Development Minister Chhagan Bhujbal said the spiritual leader will always remain in everyone's heart through his preaching.

Krishna, Meira Kumar in pain

In his condolence message, External Affairs Minister S M Krishna said he had a "unique privilege" of knowing the spiritual leader for a number of years. "The most impressive part of his personality was the love and compassion that he always brought into his endeavours," he said.

Expressing her deep sadness, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar said, "I am pained to know about the sad demise of Sri Sathya Sai Baba." "Baba's inspirational presence and his eternal message of love and compassion have enlightened the people across the world," she said in her message.

"While he worked relentlessly to achieve a spirituality-balanced and meaningful life for all, his prophetic words on various dimensions of value-oriented living have allowed his countless devotees to appreciate the true worth of universal well being.” "I am sure, his teachings of peace and harmony will continue to guide us in our efforts to establish a just society," she added.

CMs express grief

Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy expressed grief over the demise of Sai Baba and recalled the "unparallelled services rendered by him to the humanity in myriad ways which are beyond description."

"Sri Sai Baba is a symbol of love, affection and passion. Sri Sathya Sai Baba has given his great self to service of humanity in the form of various services not only to our State, our country but also to the entire world," Reddy said in his condolence message.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit condoled the death of Sai Baba describing him as a "great philanthropist" who provided solace and guidance to millions of people.

Former Andhra Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party President Chandrababu Naidu said, "The demise of Sathya Sai Baba is a great loss to humanity.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi condoled Sai Baba's death saying "He (Sai Baba) was a great man who dedicated his life to provide water and education to the rural areas and medical services to the humanity."

"In the world of spiritual leaders, he was unique -- who without wondering around the world, attracted it towards Indian culture," Modi wrote on micro-blogging site twitter.

In his condolence message, Punjab Governor Shivraj Patil said, "Sai Baba's message of love and service would continue to inspire the present and the generations to come." Patil said Sai Baba's words and teachings have lit the lamp of love in one and all.

Meanwhile, former Sri Lankan Captain Arjuna Ranatunga also condoled Baba’s death. Terming it as a sad day for the entire world, Ranatunga said, "The amount of things he has done for the people in this world...you can't put it in words."

JPN/Agencies

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