Federal front equation: Is Naveen groping for leverage ahead of 2019 elections?

Bhubaneswar: With Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik seemingly cozying up to the idea of a federal front after a meeting with Telangana Chief Minister and TRS chief K. Chandrashekar Rao (KCR), speculations are rife over such a move by the BJD supremo, who had been quite vocal about his party’s equidistant policy and alliance-neutrality.

Be it West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee or any other leader, the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief had always played ‘safe’ on the issue of joining or taking sides. But Naveen welcoming KCR’s proposal to put together a “non-Congress, non-BJP” federal front has come as a major surprise to many.

Many believe that a change in Naveen’s stance could be equal parts a deliberate attempt to stay relevant on the national stage, a ploy to divert attention from the anti-incumbency chatter in home territory and a jostle to garner some leverage to keep BJP in check?

It is believed that if it actually comes down to haggling at the centre, then BJD will be able to use, whatever advantage it will be holding, to cover its base in Odisha.

Meanwhile, after meeting Naveen yesterday, Telangana chief minister K Chandrashekar Rao met Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee today.

The Congress on the other hand criticised the Federal Front move. Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) chief Niranjan Patnaik said that it is a sponsored programme of the BJP to keep secular forces away.

“It is a political game of PM Narendra Modi to create a third front to keep secular forces at bay,” said Patnaik.

BJD MP Soumya Ranjan Patnaik said, “Congress will be the sufferer in case of a Federal Front. But regional parties will raise their voice and if they are united, they can have a meaningful impact.”

Odisha BJP in-charge Arun Singh on the other hand stated that “There will be leadership issues as KCR will not follow instructions from Naveen Patnaik and Naveen will not accept Mamata Banerjee’s leadership. Such an alliance without a strong leadership will never materialise.”