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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sunday led Union ministers, chief ministers and top political leaders in mourning the death of Sathya Sai Baba, calling him an “iconic” spiritual leader who inspired millions to lead a “moral and meaningful” life.

In their condolence messages, the leaders cutting across party lines also acknowledged the contribution made by Baba towards education, social work and developmental schemes, especially drinking water supply schemes in drought prone areas.

Governors, film personalities and top sports figures also hailed the Baba, saying he was an inspiration for many.

Expressing “deep and profound sadness” over Baba’s death, 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 Sai Baba 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.”

Vice President M Hamid Ansari said Baba’s message of love should be the guiding light in this trying hour.

“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.

UPA chairperson and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi said Baba’s death has caused a “big vaccum.”

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

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