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Naveen skips Delhi meet

New Delhi/ Bhubaneswar, Feb. 25: The absence of BJD at today’s non-BJP and non-Congress meeting in New Delhi has led to speculation that Odisha’s ruling party has developed cold feet about joining the proposed coalition.

Sources said that BJD chief and chief minister Naveen Patnaik kept away from the meeting as he had reservations about some of the parties trying to forge an alternative to the UPA and the NDA.

“The chief minister is one of the most vocal advocates of a Third Front and continues to stick to his policy of equidistance from the Congress and the BJP, but he is not convinced about the credentials of some of the parties trying to forge the new alliance,” said a senior BJD leader.

While in Delhi CPI(M) general secretary, Prakash Karat, one of the prime movers of the 11-party alliance, sought to downplay the absence of BJD at the conclave saying chief minister Naveen Patnaik could not make it because of his prior engagements in Odisha, the latter told mediapersons here that it was premature to talk about a fresh coalition at this stage. “It is still early days,” quipped Naveen.

The chief minister’s rather enigmatic statement has set the political grapevine abuzz as he had deputed one of his party leaders to attend the last meeting of the proposed front in Delhi.

That all is not well with the fledgling front is also evident as Asom Gana Parishad leaders, too, skipped today’s meeting in Delhi. Justifying the absence of the AGP, Karat said its top leader, Prafulla Mahanta’s mother was “critically ill” which kept him away.

Apart from the four Left parties, leaders of the SP, JD(U), AIADMK, JD(S) and the JVM took part in the meet where the formation of a front to “defeat the Congress and the BJP” was declared by Karat. Sources said that central BJP leadership was still keen on reviving the party’s alliance with the BJD in Odisha as they view Naveen as an important regional player who can impact the national politics.

“This is the reason why they are yet to give the go ahead to a tie up with the Odisha Jan Morcha whose leader, Pyari Mohan Mohapatra remains the chief bete noire of Naveen,” said a leader.

Sources said BJP Odisha affairs in-charge, Chandan Mitra today held talks with smaller party leaders like Soumya Ranjan Patnaik (Ama Odisha) to explore the possibility of a broader alliance in Odisha. However, a large chunk of the state party is against any tie-up with Mohapatra’s Odisha Jan Morcha.