West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is on a three-day visit to Odisha, is set to meet her counterpart in the neighbouring state, Naveen Patnaik, on Thursday afternoon.
IMAGE: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee during a visit to Puri, on Wednesday, March 22, 2023. Photograph: PTI Photo
The scheduled meeting between the two non-Bharatiya Janata Party CMs assumes significance in the wake of Banerjee’s recent interaction with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in Kolkata.
Banerjee’s party, the Trinamool Congress, and the Samajwadi Party have stated they would maintain equal distance from the BJP and the Congress, and reach out to regional parties ahead of next year’s Lok Sabha polls.
The Bengal CM had arrived in Bhubaneswar on Tuesday, and offered prayers at the Shree Jagannath Temple in Puri on Wednesday.
Before leaving for Bhubaneswar, Banerjee had told reporters at the Kolkata airport that she will hold a ‘courtesy meeting’ with Patnaik.
Meanwhile, Patnaik had in a statement on Tuesday said nothing has been discussed as yet on forming an opposition front ahead of the 2024 general elections.
After Odisha’s ruling Biju Janata Dal broke away from the alliance with the National Democratic Alliance in 2009, Patnaik has claimed to have maintained equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress.
Though Patnaik has supported most of the BJP-led Centre’s policies in the past few years, he has off late criticised the saffron party, accusing the Union government of adopting anti-poor policies.
According to political analysts, the Odisha CM’s change of mind towards the saffron camp appeared to be due to BJP’s systematic attacks on the BJD government over a host of issues.
TMC sources here indicated that Banerjee is keen to take Patnaik on board, as BJD is a major regional party and capable of securing 20 of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in the state.
The BJD had won 12 LS seats in the 2019 general elections and 20 seats in 2014.