Bhubaneswar, Aug 16: Odisha government declared a public holiday tomorrow and a seven-day state mourning as a mark of respect to former Prime Minister A B Vajpayee who passed away in New Delhi today, an official release said.
State Governor Ganeshi Lal and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik expressed deep grief over the demise of Vajpayee. Patnaik, who had served as union minister for steel and mines in the Vajpayee government from March 1998 to March 2000 before assuming the office of Odisha chief minister, said: "It is a great national loss today as much as a personal loss for me."
The official release said during the seven-day state mourning period, there will be no official celebration and the National Flag will fly half-mast on government buildings. Besides all educational institutions, banks operating in the state will remain closed tomorrow, the release said.
"I am deeply grieved to learn about the passing away of former prime minister, a great statesman and Bharat Ratna Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee," the governor said in a condolence message.
"He (Vajpayee) had the love for everybody and was loved by everybody. His demise is the end of an era. Yug Purush Atalji's thoughts, sentiments and emotions were all dedicated and devoted to the uplift of the nation and for the welfare of the humanity at large," the governor said.
Stating that he will always cherish the association with Vajpayee, Patnaik said "I will remember my initial years in politics. He (Vajpayee) embodied a unique combination of grace, idealism and tolerance in politics."
Patnaik entered politics in 1997 after the demise of his father Biju Patnaik. He was elected to Lok Sabha on Janata Dal ticket from Aska Lok Sabha seat in 1997. He was elected to Lok Sabha from the same seat also in 1998 and 1999.
"I am deeply grieved over the demise of Vajpayeeji. India has lost one of its tallest leaders. He was loved by the people of India and of course the people of Odisha as well. May his soul rest in peace," Patnaik told reporters after paying his tribute to the late leader at the AIIMS, New Delhi.
Describing Vajpayee as a statesman, who was admired across political spectrum which is rare, he said his depth of vision and understanding of issues was unparalleled. "He was a man of firm principles and an idealistic poet," Patnaik said.
"It is truly the end of an era. Vajpayeeji had a large heart with a special corner for Odisha, a love that it was equally reciprocated by the people of Odisha. We will miss you Vajpayeeji," Patnaik, president of ruling Biju Janata Dal, said in a statement.
Earlier today, Patnaik had rushed to the national capital to enquire about Vajpayee's health condition as soon as he received news about the worsening health condition of the former Prime Minister. However, Vajpayee's passing away was announced when Patnaik had been in the AIIMS premises.