Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had played a crucial role in the formation of the Naveen Patnaik-led Biju Janata Dal (BJD).
The BJD was born in 1997 out of the erstwhile Janata Dal with veteran BJP leader and Vajpayee’s close aide Pramod Mahajan frequently visiting Odisha to influence the leaders who finally gave birth to the regional party.
Former minister and BJP leader, Bijay Mohapatra, one of the architects of BJD, recalled how Vajpayee had encouraged the formation of the regional party and subsequently its alliance with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The BJD-BJP alliance fought the Lok Sabha elections in 1998 and BJD became a partner in the NDA government led by Vajpayee. Later, Naveen led the BJD-BJP alliance to victory in Odisha in 2000.
The Odisha chief minister in 2004 dissolved the Assembly before completion of its five-year tenure to ensure simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and Assembly when the NDA had fought on its “India Shining” campaign.
Naveen, who had served as a minister in the Vajpayee cabinet for two years after his entry into politics in 1997, said: “His demise was a personal loss for me. I will always cherish my association with him, especially as it was during my initial years in politics. A statesman, who was admitted across the political spectrum is rare in politics.”
BJD general secretary and Rajya Sabha MP Prasanna Acharya, also acknowledged Vajpayee’s strong support for the BJD. Giridhar Gamang’s one vote that unseated Vajpayee government