Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, has made it clear that she will meet with Naveen Patnaik, the chief minister of Odisha, later today, but despite its clarity, it hasn’t stopped people from interpreting it another way.
This is because the meeting comes after one with Akhilesh Yadav, the leader of the Samajwadi Party and a former chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, in which they declared a new political front that will directly oppose the Congress and the BJP in the upcoming presidential elections.
Ms Banerjee is also scheduled to meet former Karnataka Chief Minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader HD Kumaraswamy on Friday in Kolkata, before a possible one-on-one with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in the national capital later this month.
Therefore, efforts to characterize the encounter between Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik as a “courtesy meeting” have failed to persuade political observers who are keeping a close eye on the state that will also hold elections next year.
In order to shed the baggage that comes with the “Third Front” creation, Mamata Banerjee is eager to have Naveen Patnaik join what regional parties are referring to as a “Governance Platform,” according to sources.
The former tag is said to have performed better with opposition regional party leaders, some of whom are hesitant to make their political aspirations for the elections the following year their deciding factor.
Political analysts say it may just be semantics, but the term “Third Front” immediately places regional parties in opposition to the BJP and behind the Congress, which is something they are eager to avoid as a matter of perception.
Mamata Banerjee characterized her meeting with Naveen Patnaik as a courtesy visit because she was unable to honor a request during the Hockey World Cup earlier this year. She argued that regional parties are better prepared to challenge the BJP in 2024.
“United Opposition or anything else has nothing to do with this. It’s a formal meeting as well as a personal one because Naveen Ji sent some ministers to ask me to a program in Odisha. I assured him that we would meet whenever I visited Odisha. Kumaraswamy ji also wished to meet me, and he will do so on Friday at my house, she added.
Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, said they are contemplating meeting in April as a planned gathering of opposition chief ministers of regional parties could not take place due to assembly sessions in various states. His government has experienced similar conflict with the BJP as Mamata Banerjee’s.
We eight Chief Ministers will visit each other’s regions, they said. In places where we have excelled, we will share knowledge with one another. This is a platform for administration, not politics, according to Mr. Kejriwal.