Nothing Political About Naveen Patnaik & Mamata Banerjee’s Likely Meeting In Odisha, Says BJD

Bhubaneswar: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik will be meeting West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee on March 23 with no political intent, BJD State vice president and minister Pramila Malik said on Saturday.

This came amid speculation that the two leaders might discuss “opposition unity” during their likely meeting when Mamata arrives here on two-day Odisha tour. “Since the WB CM will be here for two days on a private tour, she will meet Naveen. There is nothing political about it,” she said.

Mamata is scheduled to offer prayers at Jagannath Temple in Puri on March 22 and may meet Naveen the next day before returning to Kolkata. An ardent devotee of Lord Jagannath, she had visited the Puri temple in 2017. Hours before the 2021 WB poll schedules were announced by the Election Commission of India, a group of priests from the 12th-century shrine in Puri had performed a yagna at Mamata’s residence in Kolkata.

Mallik said that Naveen has looked after the interest of the people of the state while maintaining equidistant from BJP and Congress. “The CM commands respect at both national and international level and leaders across party lines call upon him when in Odisha,” she said, adding that he might hold discussions with parties sharing similar ideologies.

Notably, former Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav has pledged to stand behind Mamata while maintaining equidistant from BJP and Congress.

The ruling regional party in Odisha has, however, skipped all meetings aimed at forging a third front. While Naveen Patnaik-led BJD has been supporting the Narendra Modi dispensation at the Centre in almost all issues since 2019, the state units of the parties are slowly taking an aggressive stand against each other ahead of 2024 elections.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah is scheduled to address a BJP rally in Dhamnagar assembly seat, part of Bhadrak Lok Sabha constituency, on March 26 to chart out game plan and identify seats requiring push. The saffron party had managed to retain Dhamnagar in a keenly fought bypolls last year.

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