Both Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik chose to stay away from discussing hardcore politics and finding possible common ground between the Trinamul Congress and the Biju Janata Dal to take on the BJP in the much-anticipated meeting of the two leaders at Bhubaneswar on Thursday.
While Patnaik said that both leaders resolved to make the country’s federal structure "strong and permanent", Banerjee added that “safety and security of the people of the nation” was a concern shared by both.
The two chief ministers held a meeting 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, "This was a courtesy call from the Bengal chief minister. We had an informal discussion and resolved to make the federal structure of the country permanent and strong. There was no in-depth discussion about serious political matters."
"It was a nice courtesy meeting. We are neighbouring states having excellent relations. We share a very old friendship," Patnaik said.
Seconding Patnaik, Banerjee said, "I have been to this house a few times, the first time was when Bijuji invited me here when I was an MP for the first term. I also visited this place on the chief minister’s invite when Amit Shah came to Odisha for the Eastern Region Security Council meet. I felt it was a great gesture from Naveenji to offer me all protocols and affection during this trip. The officers here are very good and provided us with great hospitality. I have invited Naveenji to visit Bengal as well.”
“Both states are affected by cyclones and we have been great neighbours,” she added while expressing her gratitude to the Odisha government for offering a two-acre plot on Puri sea front to allow the construction of the Biswa Bangla government guest house.
However, both leaders skipped questions on the possibilities of a third front or a regional alliance for the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
“There could be things in this matter in which Naveenji and I may have differing opinions. It would not be prudent of me to speak about them here. But I am ready to answer your questions if you ask them to me separately elsewhere,” Banerjee said before leaving the premises.
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 Trinamul Congress supremo. He also presented her filigree work and some sweets. Banerjee gifted a shawl to Patnaik.