Vikash Sharma

Bhubaneswar: Odisha unit of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) is gearing up for a grand ‘Asthi Kalash Yatra’ after the urn containing ashes of former Prime Minister late Atal Bihari Vajpayee reached Bhubaneswar this evening.

Odisha BJP president Basant Panda received the urn from External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj at a function held at New Delhi while Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior leaders of BJP also handed over urns to party presidents from across the country today.

Soon after the urn reached Bhubaneswar, it was then taken to BJP headquarters where a special prayer meeting was organised in memory of the departed soul. Vajpayee’s ashes will be immersed in Puri tomorrow.

Senior BJP leader and Union Minister Jual Oram said such programme is being organised as party workers and people in the country wanted to pay tributes to the late Prime Minister, who died last week after prolonged illness.

Senior BJP leaders informed that an all-party meeting will be organised in Bhubaneswar on August 24. Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik and chiefs of all other political parties have been invited for the programme. Though major political parties including BJD and Congress have given their consent for such a programme in memory of the former PM, they also sensed attempts by the BJP to gain sympathy for political gains.

“Question whether there is a need of such event is different altogether. We had also conducted similar programmes after the death of former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Rajiv Gandhi. But the events were not conducted in such a grand manner as it is being planned by BJP now,” said Odisha Congress president, Niranjan Patnaik.

“Atal Bihari Vajpayee is a person whom people respect a lot. There is nothing wrong in immersing his ashes in Puri. But people will not get any political gain if they are thinking of any,” said BJD leader, Sameer Dash.

Senior BJP leaders on the other hand criticised the way political leaders are trying to create a controversy on the issue.

“We have invited the Chief Minister, Leader of Opposition and chiefs of other political parties to attend the programme organised in memory of Atal Bihari Ji. It is not the occasion to make such statements when our party is observing a week-long mourning,” said BJP leader Samir Mohanty.

BJP leaders further informed that the ashes of Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be immersed in four major rivers—Mahanadi, Bramhani, Baitarini and Rushikulya.