In the span of about a week, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is meeting three important leaders from the opposition camp. It began with Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav on March 17. Then on Thursday, Mamata met Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik. And on Friday, she will have a meeting with Janata Dal (Secular)’s HD Kumaraswamy.
In Odisha, both Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik termed it a courtesy call, maintaining that no political discussion took place. However, at the same time, they stressed on the importance of having a strong federal structure.
“It was a courtesy call. No serious discussion on politics took place. We just said the federal structure of India should remain permanent and strong,” said Patnaik.
Similarly, Mamata said, “When I first became an MP, Bijuji (Naveen Patnaik’s father and former Odisha CM) invited me. We are neighbouring states and our relationship is good. As Naveen ji said, I also believe the federal structure should be strong.”
Observers say both Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) and Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have the same policy of maintaining equal distance from the BJP and Congress. That’s why when both these regional satraps met, there was buzz of a possible “third front”.
Bharatiya Janata Party’s West Bengal leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari took a dig at the meeting on Twitter.
If you read between the lines, the question & answer sounds like this:-Journalist - Sir, did you discuss with Mamata Ji regarding 3rd Front alliance before the upcoming 2024 General Elections?
Naveen Patnaik Ji - Puri asunthi, Maha Prabhu darshan korunthi, ebar ghar jaunti… pic.twitter.com/gGugoPWNWX
— Suvendu Adhikari • শুভেন্দু অধিকারী (@SuvenduWB) March 23, 2023
The meeting between Akhilesh and Mamata last Friday indicated that an opposition bloc is shaping up and it does not want the Congress to be the “big brother”, say analysts. That feeling is now getting strengthened with the TMC chief meeting Patnaik and getting set to meet Kumaraswamy.
In 2019, just before the Lok Sabha polls, opposition leaders came together at the Kolkata Brigade Parade Ground, in a show of strength. Mamata even started her campaign from Visakhapatnam with Telugu Desam Party’s N Chandrababu Naidu. But nothing more happened.
Analysts say the opposition has to settle two issues: who will be the overall leader, and a common minimum programme.
Another section feels that the process of alliance formation right now is as expected, and the real united opposition, if at all, will emerge only after the elections.
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