Atal Behari Vajpayee and Biju Patnaik were great friends, though they were in different political parties and Biju babu used to often say ‘the BJP is a signboard party in Odisha’.

While people at large here and politicians recalled fond memories of Vajpayee and how respected and loved he was, those close to Biju Patnaik remembered how the two friends, during one of Vajpayee’s visits to Odisha had suddenly decided to enjoy a Odissi dance performance late in the evening. Necessary arrangements were made for a private performance.

Even when Naveen Patnaik made his debut in politics, it was Vajpayee to a great extent. along with L K Advani who did the hand holding.

He was Biju’s son and treated as such. Till 2009 the relationship bonhomie continued, though, by then it was Mr Advani in command and Naveen Patnaik parted ways.

Who else could have asked Narendra Modi, the then chief minister of Gujarat to follow raj dharma during the riots, remarked political circles here while noting that the saddened Vajpayee had been under pressure from Advani and others not to take action.

Chief minister Naveen Patnaik who flew to Delhi on Thursday expressed deep shock and grief over the sad demise of Vajpayeeji.

“It is a great national loss today as much as a personal loss for me. I will always cherish my association with Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayeeji especially as it was during my initial years in politics. He embodied a unique combination of grace, idealism and tolerance in politics. A statesman who was admired across the political spectrum – rare in politics. His depth of vision and understanding of issues was unparalleled. A man of firm principles and an idealistic poet. It is truly the end of an era … Vajpayjeeji had a large heart with a special corner for Odisha – a love that was equally reciprocated by the people of Odisha… We will miss you Vajpayeeji. May his soul rest in peace”.

Earlier, on the day, the Chief Minister paid a visit to AIIMS at Delhi to pay his last tributes to the departed leader.

People of Paradip recalled that it was Vajpayee who had laid the foundation for today’s Oil Refinery at Paradip in 2002.

Many lamented that the foundation stone for the project presently stands neglected in spite of its close proximity to the refinery plant. Weeds have grown around the platform.

Reports from Sambalpur said there was a sense of loss amongst people. He rose above the political divide and commanded respect from almost every other political party, said Aswini Guru, the former MLA cum the district president of Congress.

Sureswar Mishra, a senior leader of the party too paid his tributes. Suresh Pujari, the national secretary of BJP has described the demise of the former PM as an irreparable loss to the nation. “It is difficult to have a second man like him,” Pujari said further.

Dr Raseswari Panigrahi, BJD MLA of Sambalpur and others condoled the death.

7-day mourning declared

Odisha government declared seven-day mourning as a mark of respect for former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The government has announced office, banks and educational institutions will remain closed on Friday.

No official functions and celebrations will be held.