Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik and his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said they had resolved to make the federal structure of the country "strong and permanent". The statement came after a much-awaited meeting of the two chief ministers held at the conclusion of Banerjee's three-day visit to Odisha. Addressing reporters at the end of the meeting at Naveen Niwas -- Patnaik's residence -- with Banerjee beside him, the Odisha CM said, "We resolved to make the federal structure of the country permanent and strong. There was no other political discussion."
Banerjee seconded Patnaik and said, "I strongly support what Naveen ji said and I appreciate this. We also discussed about democratic rights and the safety of the nation."She also sought iron ore for industries in her state and proposed an industrial corridor between the two states.However, speculation remained rife that the meeting was part of Banerjee's plan to form an opposition front with regional players minus the Congress.Earlier, both Banerjee's Trinamool Congress and Uttar Pradesh's backwards' leader Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi party had last Friday said the two parties would stay away from both the Congress and BJP.
TMC had also announced it would hold talks with other regional parties in their bid to take on the BJP in the crucial 2024 elections though it officially continued to deny any plans for a 'Third Front', separate from the Congress-led broad coalition. After Thursday's meeting at Patnaik's residence too, both the leaders skipped questions on the possibility of a third front or a regional alliance for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. As the two leaders confabulated here, other top opposition leaders reacted strongly on hearing news of the conviction of Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s conviction and bail in a defamation case by a court in Surat. Opposition leaders including DMK leader and Tamil Nadu CM M.K Stalin, AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal, JMM chief Hemnt Soren, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar spoke out against the move.
The action against Gandhi is an occasion for “fight, not fright” and all parties opposed to the ruling BJP at the Centre must come together “without delay”, Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav said on Thursday. "It was a courtesy meeting. There was no in-depth discussion about serious political matters. We share a very old friendship," Patnaik said. Banerjee thanked Patnaik for handing over two acres of land for the construction of a Bengal government guest house in Puri. She also drew Patnaik's attention to shortage of iron ore in Bengal and sought Odisha's help which has the raw material for steel production in abundance. Banerjee also proposed a Bengal-Odisha industrial corridor which will develop the economies of the two states that are connected by national highways and railway tracks.
The West Bengal CM said a Jagannath temple is being constructed in Digha coastal town. "I have invited Naveen ji to Bengal. Our states share good relationship," she said. Earlier, Banerjee reached Patnaik's residence, where the Odisha chief minister welcomed her by presenting Sri Angavastra of Lord Jagannath. He also presented a replica of the three chariots to the Trinamool Congress supremo, besides filigree work and some sweets from Odisha.Banerjee gave a return gift of a shawl to Patnaik, and placed a jamdani saree in front of photographs of Patnaik's parents former Odisha CM Biju Patnaik and his wife Gyan Patnaik. Earlier, when Banerjee had reached Bhubaneswar on March 21, she had sent some sweets from West Bengal to Patnaik.