The Chief Minister met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi this evening and called it a "courtesy call". Asked whether the BJD would maintain its "equidistant" stance, he told reporters: "That has always been the plan."
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik today nixed the possibility of working with the opposition for the 2024 national election, declaring that his Biju Janata Dal (BJD) party will go it alone and that this has “always been the plan”.
The Chief Minister met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi this evening and called it a “courtesy call”. Asked whether the BJD would maintain its “equidistant” stance, he told reporters: “That has always been the plan.”
The 76-year-old veteran politician has always been on the fence on supporting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) or the Congress. That is not changing anytime soon, he asserted, two days after his meeting with Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, the prime mover in opposition unity moves ahead of 2024.
Naveen Patnaik’s announcement is a blow to Nitish Kumar’s efforts to set up head-to-head contests against the BJP across India in 2024 .
Mr Patnaik said he had met PM Modi to discuss shifting the international airport from Bhubaneswar to Puri, one of Odisha’s biggest draws. “The PM said he will help in any way possible,” he added.
He said he had no plans to meet any other political parties on this visit to the capital. “Not on this trip, not as far as I am concerned,” he said, contradicting reports that suggested a flurry of meetings with opposition leaders including Aam Aadmi Party (AAP)’s Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhara Rao, and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin.
Mr Patnaik had earlier also met with Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, one of the BJP’s sharpest critics.
There was speculation that by meeting opposition politicians, the Odisha Chief Minister wanted to deliver a message to the BJP, which has been making aggressive moves in the state he has ruled for 22 years.
Since Mr Patnaik exited the BJP-led NDA in 2008, the BJD has stayed on the fence when it comes to supporting the NDA or the opposition. At the same time, the party has skipped opposition meetings and is known to bail out the central government when it needs the numbers.
After meeting with Nitish Kumar on Tuesday, Mr Patnaik had emphatically denied any discussions over an alliance.
“Ours is a known friendship, and we were colleagues many years ago. No discussion was held on any alliances today,” he said.
That he agreed to meet with Nitish Kumar in the middle of opposition moves was seen as a significant shift. Nitish Kumar is planning a meeting of opposition leaders in Delhi on May 18.