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Presidential poll: Odisha CM keeps Opposition guessing after Yechury seeks support

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury met the Odisha CM in Bhubaneswar to seek the latter’s support for the Opposition candidate against the NDA in the Presidential poll in July.

india Updated: May 08, 2017 12:47 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Presidential poll,Odisha chief minister,Naveen Patnaik
Chief minister of Odisha Naveen Patnaik.(HT File Photo)

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik left the Opposition camp guessing over his position in the upcoming Presidential poll.

With more than 32,500 votes, Patnaik’s BJD could have given the Opposition a fighting chance against the ruling NDA in the election.

CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury met Patnaik in Bhubaneswar to seek the latter’s support for the Opposition candidate against the NDA in the Presidential poll in July. Although Patnaik didn’t commit his support, he told Yechury that the dialogue process would continue. “We will take the dialogue forward,” Patnaik told Yechury.

Yechury, who has emerged as a key face of the Opposition unity against the Modi government, told Patnaik that in the present political context of the country, there is need for “secular supervision” as opposed to communal supervision from Rashtrapati Bhavan.

“We want to field a person with impeccable secular credentials. We seek your support,” said Yechury.

As the BJD is fighting against the Congress in the state, Yechury also clarified to Patnaik that he hasn’t come for any political formation.

“Any such formation can happen later. But now, we are only talking about the Presidential polls,” Yechury told HT from Bhubaneswar.

At the end of the meeting, when Yechury asked what he should brief the media, Patnaik told him to announce that they have discussed the issue of fielding a secular candidate.

Hours before Yechury was scheduled to meet the Odisha chief minister at the latter’s residence, a section of the BJP rapidly circulated the name of Draupadi Murmu as the NDA’s possible candidate in a bid to pour cold water on the Opposition’s effort to woo Patnaik.

Murmu, the governor of Jharkhand, is a native of Odisha. “If Murmu is indeed fielded as a candidate, it would be almost impossible for Patnaik to oppose her,” said a Congress leader.

The Opposition is banking its hope on the fact that Patnaik’s BJD is facing a new challenge from the increasing BJP threat in its state. In the recent rural polls in Odisha, the BJP improved its tally by 850%.

In the last election, Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa fielded PA Sangma as an independent candidate. It prompted the BJP to throw its weight behind Sangma, leading to a contest against UPA’s nominee Pranab Mukherjee.


First Published: May 04, 2017 21:12 IST