Latur: A sea of humanity poured out on all roads leading to Babhalgaon village in Latur district where the body of their beloved leader Vilasrao Deshmukh was brought for people to pay their last respects on Wednesday.

As a mark of respect to the departed leader, all shops and businesses remained closed for the second consecutive day on Wednesday and many people observed fast, locals said.

Security arrangements at levels never before seen have been put in place since Wednesday morning when Deshmukh's body was brought by a special Indian Air Force aircraft to Latur for the last rites in his native village.

While thousands lined the route leading to the funeral site, over half a million people are likely to witness the last rites.

Deshmukh spent his childhood in Babhalgaon, became one of its youngest sarpanch (village head), and later went on to become Maharashtra chief minister twice and also a union minister.

He breathed his last in Chennai's Global Hospital Tuesday after a cardiac arrest following multiple organ failure.

Shortly after it arrived and got stuck in a traffic jam owing to the huge crowds on the roads, the cortege carrying the coffin was placed for public 'darshan' at the Dayanand School.

Even as people filed past the coffin weeping, his sons Amit, Dheeraj and Reitesh accepted condolences from the host of dignitaries and VVIPs who have reached Latur for the funeral.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Maharashtra Governor K. Sankaranarayanan, Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and his cabinet colleagues are among the dignitaries expected at the funeral.

Bharatiya Janata Party president Nitin Gadkari, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray, Republican Party of India chief Ramdas Athavale and other opposition leaders will also pay their respects to the departed leader.

The state government has organised a state funeral for Deshmukh and declared a three-day official mourning.


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