New Delhi- President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders across the political spectrum condoled the demise of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and hailed his contribution to the armed forces as well as the country.
General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others were killed in a helicopter crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force said.
The copter carrying General Rawat and his entourage crashed in apparently foggy conditions, killing the 13 people on board, the IAF and other officials said. One person survived the crash and is being treated at a hospital.
President Kovind said it was deeply painful for him to learn of the loss of lives in the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu.
"I join fellow citizens in paying tributes to each of those who died while performing their duty. My heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families," he tweeted.
"I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of General Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika ji. The nation has lost one of its bravest sons. His four decades of selfless service to the motherland was marked by exceptional gallantry and heroism. My condolences to his family," the president said.
Vice President Naidu said he was deeply shocked by the tragic death of Rawat, his wife, senior officials of the armed forces and others in the helicopter crash in Coonoor.
"I spoke to the Hon'ble Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh and conveyed my deep anguish. My thoughts & prayers are with the bereaved family members in this hour of grief," Naidu said.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he is deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in which "we have lost General Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the armed forces".
"They served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," he said.
Hailing Rawat as an "outstanding soldier", Modi said he was a "true patriot" who greatly contributed to modernising the armed forces and security apparatus.
"His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply. Om Shanti," he said in a series of tweets.
"As India's first CDS, General Rawat worked on diverse aspects relating to our armed forces including defence reforms. He brought with him a rich experience of serving in the Army. India will never forget his exceptional service," Modi said.
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi condoled the death of General Rawat, his wife and others in the crash in Tamil Nadu and said it is an unprecedented tragedy.
"I extend my condolences to the family of General Bipin Rawat and his wife. This is an unprecedented tragedy and our thoughts are with their family in this difficult time," Gandhi said on Twitter.
"Heartfelt condolences also to all others who lost their lives. India stands united in this grief," he said.
Expressing anguish over General Rawat's death, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said his untimely demise is an irreparable loss to the armed forces and the country.
"Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other armed forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu," Singh tweeted.
"His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our armed forces and the country," the defence minister said.
Singh said General Rawat had served the country with exceptional courage and diligence.
"As the first Chief of Defence Staff he had prepared plans for jointness of our armed forces," he said.
Home Minister Amit Shah said it was "very sad day" for the nation as "we have lost our CDS, General Bipin Rawat Ji" in a very tragic accident.
"He was one of the bravest soldiers, who has served the motherland with utmost devotion. His exemplary contributions & commitment cannot be put into words. I am deeply pained," Shah said.
"I also express my deepest condolences on the sad demise of Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other armed forces personnel. My thoughts are with the bereaved families. May God give them the strength to bear this tragic loss. Praying for the speedy recovery of Gp Capt Varun Singh," the home minister said.
Several politicians, including senior ministers, also condoled the loss of lives in the chopper crash.
Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said India will always remain grateful to General Rawat for his impeccable service to the nation at the most crucial moments.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, in a tweet, said, "Deeply shocked at tragic demise of CDS General Bipin Rawat and his wife."
"We worked closely together in the last few years. It is a huge loss to the nation," he said.
Expressing grief, BJP president J P Nadda said, "Deeply pained by the sudden demise of CDS General Bipin Rawat, his wife & 11 other armed forces personnel in an unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. Huge loss to the nation. I salute Gen Rawat for his outstanding services. My heartfelt condolences to bereaved families."
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers -- veteran Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah -- also condoled the death of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat.
"It's very sad & shocking to hear about the demise of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife and other Armed Forces personnel in the unfortunate helicopter accident today. It's an irreparable loss to the country. I pray to Almighty that their souls may rest in peace," Azad said in a tweet.
Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi, his Haryana counterpart Manohar Lal Khattar, SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal, former chief minister Amarinder Singh and Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal have expressed deep anguish over the death of General Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 others in the helicopter crash.
Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav, and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati also expressed grief over the deaths in the crash.
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