West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at Navin Niwas in Bhubaneswar.  file

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee with to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at Navin Niwas in Bhubaneswar. file | Photo Credit: Biswaranjan Rout

Amidst talk of revival of third Opposition front ahead of 2024 elections, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is meeting leaders of non-Congress Opposition parties. But, nothing much should be expected from her scheduled meeting with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik.

Ms. Banerjee, who is currently on a three day visit to Odisha, is likely to meet Mr. Patnaik on March 23, a day before her meeting with former Karnataka Chief Minister and Janata Dal (S) leader HD Kumaraswamy in Kolkata.

The West Bengal CM scouted for possible sites for a proposed guest house for devotees coming from West Bengal to the coastal town and would visit 12th Century Shree Jagannath Temple at Puri on March 22.

A senior leader in Biju Janata Dal sources said, “The Trinamool Congress chairperson is widely known as an ardent devotee of Lord Jagannath. Before the last assembly election in West Bengal, she had invited Sevayats [priests] of Shree Jagannath Temple to perform a special worship for smooth sailing of her party in election. This time, she is in Odisha purely for her spiritual sojourn.”

“Mr. Patnaik, who is known as a courteous person, will definitely host or meet his counterpart. In the past, he had extended same courtesy to other leaders irrespective of the party they belonged to. Nothing much should be read into the meeting between the two leaders,” he pointed out.

BJD’s stated ideological line is that the party will keep equal distance from both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress. Under this circumstance, it is obvious to consider Mr. Patnaik is a suitable constituent of the ‘Third Front’ that is being talked about.

But Mr. Patnaik had never expressed national ambition of going beyond the boundary of Odisha and continued to consolidate party’s strength as a regional player having ‘cordial’ relationship with the party at the Centre.

Odisha CM may not be seen supporting the BJP openly, but he has never gone against the saffron party issuing vociferous statements like Telangana K. Chandrashekar Rao, Ms. Banerjee, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal or other Congress leaders against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his party. In fact, the BJD had too extended support to the BJP in passing crucial bills in Parliament, especially in the Upper House where the saffron party was short of majority at some point of time.

“Alliance with any parties other than the BJP, the Congress at the Center would not bring in much dividend for Mr. Patnaik nationally. He has been negotiating with the NDA leadership on his own terms. The BJD is cruising along in the state capturing power for five successive terms and doesn’t need help of parties,” said Rabi Dash, a veteran journalist and political commentator.

During his 25 years in active politics, he had hardly been photographed on the occasion of showcasing Opposition unity against either the NDA or the UPA, said Mr. Dash. Moreover, the Opposition unity against the BJP-led Government at the Center had not gained much momentum in last one year. So the Odisha CM is apparently not tempted to join the coalition.

“If the BJP makes some drastic move to unsettle his government, then he would require Opposition parties to counter the former. There is no such serious attempt seen on part of State unit of the BJP. He also sees no threat from the Congress. So mr. Patnaik is currently happy enjoying a government facing no serious challenge from the BJP or any Opposition,” said Satya Prakash Nayak, former Congress leader and a political analyst.

Positioning on the right side of central dispensation would earn him more central assistance and ensure lesser number of visits by investigating agencies, Mr. Nayak said.

When Mr. Banerjee landed in Bhubaneswar on March 21, she said, “Odisha CM is a senior politician. The meeting with Mr. Patnaik will be courtesy visit.


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