After Modi meet, Naveen Patnaik says no to joining 'third front' for 2024 poll

May 11, 2023 07:16 PM IST

Naveen Patnaik-PM Modi meeting: The Odisha chief minister said the prime minister and he discussed proposals for an international airport in Puri.

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday appeared to quash talk of his Biju Janata Dal joining a 'third front' of opposition parties to challenge the Bharatiya Janata Party and prime minister Narendra Modi in the 2024 Lok Sabha election. "There is no possibility of a 'third front' as far as I am concerned," he said after meeting Modi in Delhi, before adding, "Not now."

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik (PTI Photo)
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik (PTI Photo)

He then indicated his BJD - which is not allied with the BJP but has offered support at times - would fight the 2024 election solo; "That has always been the case..." he replied when asked about his party's plans for next year.

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Patnaik said he met Modi to discuss 'issues related to Odisha'. "I spoke for the international airport we have to set up in Puri... Bhubaneswar is a lot of (air) traffic now, so that is why we want an expansion," the chief minister explained.

"PM said he will definitely help in every way possible," Patnaik said.

The 'third front' and Nitish Kumar's efforts

Talk of a 'third front' has grown these past weeks with Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and his deputy Tejashwi Yadav on a round of high-profile visits.

Patnaik and Nitish met Tuesday but both played the meeting down; the former spoke about his friendship with the Bihar CM and labelled it a 'courtesy' call.

READ | Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik meet, say no alliance talks

Nitish Kumar has already met Delhi chief minister and Aam Aadmi Party boss Arvind Kejriwal and ex-Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav. Kejriwal last month called 'people's unity' more important.

The Bihar chief minister has also met Bengal's Mamata Banerjee, who, in turn, met Patnaik last month and underlined the strength of regional parties.

READ | Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik call for 'strong' federal structure

Earlier today Nitish and Tejashwi met ex-Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray and called on opposition parties to unite ahead of the 2024 poll.

"There should be no dispute and everyone should stay united," he said.

The two then met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and all three stressed the need (again) for the opposition to unite and work for the nation.

Nitish and Tejashwi also met Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren this week, after which the former said, "Our talks centred on forming a united opposition..."

READ | Nitish meets Jharkhand CM Soren, says will work together for 2024

Nitish's meeting with Congress

The Bihar chief minister's rounds come after a potentially significant meeting with Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge and top leader Rahul Gandhi in Delhi last month, which was claimed a 'historic step' in attempts to challenge Modi.

"We will try to unite as many political parties as we can and move forward together," Nitish Kumar said then with Rahul Gandhi by his side.

Kumar's efforts since have been seen as an attempt do what the Congress seems to have failed - to rally strong regional leaders around and unite an opposition that isn't, perhaps, fully convinced by Rahul Gandhi and his challenge to Modi.

Another 'third front'

Nitish Kumar isn't the only opposition leader bidding for a united opposition.

Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekhar Rao - whose national ambitions are clear - is plotting something similar. However, Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin - one of those contacted by KCR - poured cold water on the idea.

In March, Stalin urged all opposition parties to 'understand simple electoral arithmetic logic and stand united' behind the Congress, with whom he is allied.

With input from agencies

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