West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will meet her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik on Thursday morning at the latter’s residence. The TMC supremo’s meeting with Patnaik has sparked speculation of Banerjee leading an initiative to forge an alliance of regional parties against the BJP while maintaining distance with the Congress.
The meeting of the two CMs has assumed significance ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election. Last week, Mamata held a one-to-one meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and both leaders agreed to maintain distance from Congress and BJP as they discussed the strategy for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
The Bengal Chief Minister said her meeting with Patnaik was a “courtesy” call.
READ | Mamata Meets Akhilesh Yadav, Both Agree To Maintain Distance From Congress Ahead Of 2024 Polls
“He had sent a minister to invite me to the Men’s World Cup Hockey tournament that was held in January this year. I had then said that I will visit Bhubaneswar and meet him,” PTI quoted Banerjee as saying.
Meanwhile, speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Patnaik said nothing has been discussed as yet on forming an opposition front, PTI reported. Asked whether any discussion on forming a “third front” was on the cards with the TMC chief, the BJD president told reporters, “Nothing has been discussed as yet”.
Patnaik had always maintained an independent identity of party by keeping an equal distance from both the BJP and the Congress.
On Wednesday, Banerjee, who is on a three-day visit to Odisha, offered prayers at the iconic Jagannath Temple in Puri. She also offered a huge flag, which was tied atop the 12th-century shrine.
She witnessed the ‘aarti’ and also visited the temple of Maa Laxmi and Maa Bimala in the temple premises.
The CM also selected a piece of land near the temple, popular among people from Bengal, for the construction of a Bengal Niwas for visitors from the state.
She said lakhs of Bengalis visit Puri every year and many of them face problems in finding accommodation. “I have been given the privilege of a state guest and therefore got accommodation, but journalists who came from Bengal on Tuesday faced difficulties. Puri needs more hotels and rooms,” PTI quoted Banerjee as saying.