Mamata Banerjee Meets Odisha Chief Minister Amid New Front Buzz
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee met Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today, renewing buzz that the Trinamool leader is spearheading an attempt to forge an alliance of regional parties against the BJP.
The meeting assumes significance in the context of Ms Banerjee’s recent interaction with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav in Kolkata, where they agreed to keep both the Congress and the BJP at arm’s length.
Mamata Banerjee is scheduled to meet former Karnataka Chief Minister and JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy in Kolkata on Friday. He is also likely to meet Arvind Kejriwal in Delhi later this month to protest what he calls “injustice and denial of funds to Bengal” and the “dictatorial approach of the central government”.
The meeting between Mamata Banerjee and Biju Janata Dal chief Naveen Patnaik was said to be a courtesy call. But with Odisha going to polls during the 2024 general elections, political observers say there is more to it. Banerjee is keen to bring on board Naveen Patnaik, who regional parties describe as a ‘ruling base’ to shed the baggage of the “Third Front”.
Opposition leaders from regional parties are keen to build what they describe as a personal base of chief ministers from regional parties and are strongly opposed to what they call a ‘third tier’ with political implications in the run-up to the 2024 elections. Political insiders say that the designation of ‘Third Tier’ automatically puts regional parties behind the Congress, something they would prefer to avoid.
Mamata Banerjee described her meeting with Naveen Patnaik as a matter of courtesy as regional parties are better prepared to take on the BJP in 2024 as she was unable to honor an invitation extended to her during the Hockey World Cup earlier this year. “It was not a united opposition or anything, it was a courtesy meeting and a personal meeting because there was a program in Odisha and Naveen ji sent some ministers to invite me. I visit him whenever I visit Odisha. Kumaraswamy ji also wanted to meet me and he is coming to meet me at my residence on Friday.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has faced similar issues with the BJP, said he was considering a meeting in April as opposition chiefs of regional parties could not meet due to ongoing assembly sessions in various states. “We eight chief ministers will visit each other’s states. We will learn from each other about the areas where we have done well. This is a governance platform, it is not a political platform,” he said.
Regional parties hope that a ‘ruling platform’ to take over the BJP could deliver political results. Sources said that in the coming days, in 2024, more such meetings are planned to be held against the BJP, both federally and politically.