Bhubaneswar: Hailing late Odisha chief minister Biju Patnaik as a great patriot and a true nationalist, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh today said flying was a passion and pleasure for the leader.
"Flying was Biju Babu`s passion .. And his pleasure, nationalism flew in his blood and veins," Singh who was inaugurating a new domestic terminal at the Biju Patnaik Airport here on the 97th anniversary of the former Odisha chief minister. His comment brought cheers and claps from the gathering.
The event was organised by Airport Authority of India (AAI).
Biju Patnaik joined Royal Indian Air Force at the start of the second World War and used air force transports to deliver nationalist literature to Indian troops.
?"He airlifted the first Indian soldiers to Srinagar shortly after Independence when Pakistan invaded Kashmir," he said narrating the acts of bravery of the leader whom he fondly referred to as `Biju Dada`.
Patnaik, he said, flew to Java in his Dakota amidst heavy bombarding by Dutch forces during the freedom struggle of Indonesia and brought Sultan Sjahrir to India, who was sent at the behest of President Sukarno to attend first Inter-Asia Conference organised by Jawahar Lal Nehru in July 1947.
Sultan Sjahrir was eventually successful in his mission of freedom. "Biju Babu was given honorary citizenship of Indonesia and awarded `Bhoomi Putra`, the highest Indonesian award and a rare distinction."
Striking an emotional link, Singh said "I am presently staying in a house in Delhi which has been vacated by Biju Dada."
"I also remember him as Union Minister for steel and mines in the government of my father Choudhury Charan Singh. My sat sat naman to the architect and builder of modern Odisha, a great patriot and nationalist Biju Babu," he added.