Vajpayee’s footprints to remain etched in history of Odisha

Bhubaneswar: Such was Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s charisma that even his political opponents were mesmerized by his towering personality, vision and dedication towards nation.

At a time when the entire country is mourning his death, it is a time to acknowledge the indelible mark Vajpayee left on Odisha. Be it the 1999 super cyclone or coalition politics, Vajpayee’s contribution is still etched in the memories of the people as well as leaders in Odisha.

Odisha was yet to recover from the devastation caused by the super cyclone in 1999 and in such trying times, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then prime minister, visited Odisha on November 5 and took stock of the situation.

Moved by the suffering of people, Vajpayee announced a package of Rs 250 crore for carrying out relief and rehabilitation work.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee also championed development of Odisha. He had laid the foundation stones for the Paradip refinery on May 25, 2000 and AIIMS Bhubaneswar on July 15, 2002.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also in good terms with former Odisha Chief Minister Biju Patnaik.

Vajpayee, who had paid last tributes to Biju Patnaik in Odisha, was believed to be instrumental in the formation of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) by playing the role of an advisor.

Whether bringing BJD into the NDA fold or choosing Naveen Patnaik as a minister in his cabinet, Vajpayee played a key role. Besides, many believe that Vajpayee reportedly groomed Naveen Patnaik as a politician.

“He (Vajpayee) was a great leader and it was a good experience to have worked under him,” said Patnaik.

Senior BJD leader Prasanna Acharya stated that “During the formation of BJD, Atal Ji and Advani Ji had given moral support to us. Vajpayee Ji always gave constructive suggestions whenever Naveen Babu looked up to him.”

Odisha BJP leaders too believe that Vajpayee played an important role in strengthening the party in the State. After the party came to power in 1999, Jual Oram was picked for the newly-constituted tribal welfare ministry.

“Vajpayee was a source of inspiration to me. He always encouraged me to work for the upliftment of poor and other backward classes,” said Oram.

Not only Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik or Union Minister Jual Oram, several other leaders from Odisha including Dilip Ray, Arjun Sethi, Braja Kishore Tripathy, Devendra Pradhan held several key portfolios as ministers when NDA was in power.