Bhubaneswar: Leaders from Odisha, who were inducted as ministers in the Vajpayee government, still recall their experiences with the former Prime Minister.
Leaders like Jual Oram, Dillip Ray, Arjun Sethi, Braja Kishore Tripathy and Devendra Pradhan held several key portfolios as Union Ministers in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government.
After the party came to power in 1999, Jual Oram was picked for the newly-constituted Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
Recalling the immense contribution of Vajpayee towards tribal development, Oram he said it was through his efforts and under his leadership that after 52 years of attaining Independence, a separate Tribal Affairs Ministry was set up in October 1999, which worked for tribal welfare. “Vajpayee Ji was a source of inspiration to me. He always encouraged me to work for the uplift of the poor and other backward classes and gave me a free hand to work,” he said.
“I was fortunate enough to have worked under Vajpayee Ji twice as a minister. One of the most charismatic leaders the country has ever seen, he was like a father figure to me. Once, he had entrusted me with the task of negotiating with Jayalalitha and Chandrababu Naidu. A deft politician, he tackled tricky problems and dealt with difficult situations with great ease,” said Ray.
With his democratic style of functioning, he always struck a balance on almost all issues, Ray added.
“Vajpayee Ji had given free hand to his ministers and I was also given a free hand to deal with issues. I still remember the time when discussion on the no confidence motion was going on in Parliament he had praised the performance of my ministry,” said Braja Tripathy.
Debendra Pradhan said Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojna (PMGSY) is one of the best schemes he had rolled out for the rural areas. He had also wanted to irrigate all cultivated land in the country. “However, it did not progress well. If the irrigation work is expedited, it will be a great tribute to Vajpayee Ji,” Pradhan said.
Praising the functioning of the former PM, Sethi said, “He had always treated me as his close relative and I was always inspired by his words and advice. He wanted to inter-connect all major rivers for the future generation, a project which is yet to be taken up.”
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