A reunion of old friends: Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik’s meeting goes beyond politics

The meeting between Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the latter’s residence in Bhubaneswar has sparked interest and speculation among political observers.

Termed as a gathering of old friends “beyond politics,” the meeting served as a reminder of their longstanding camaraderie and shared experiences as colleagues in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

Both the Chief Ministers had lunch together.

While the media anticipated discussions on political alliances, both leaders emphasized that the meeting was purely a happy reunion and devoid of any political deliberations.

A rekindling of friendship

Naveen Patnaik expressed his delight at Nitish Kumar’s presence in Bhubaneswar and referred to their friendship. They fondly recalled their time as Union Ministers in Mr. Vajpayee’s cabinet, where they worked side by side.

“I am delighted that Nitish Ji is here in Bhubaneswar. We are old friends and colleagues. We have served together under the Vajpayee government,” said Naveen.

Patnaik affirmed that the discussions during their meeting were centered around allocating 1.5 acres of land in Puri, which would be provided free of cost to the Bihar Government for the construction of Bihar Bhawan. This initiative aimed to cater to the needs of tourists and pilgrims visiting the revered Shree Jagannath Temple.

A non-political affair

Both Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik were eager to clarify that their interaction held no political undertones. Nitish Kumar, who has been actively working towards forging alliances with like-minded opposition parties, emphasized that there were no political discussions during their meeting.

He stressed the longevity of their relationship, noting his regular visits to Naveen Patnaik before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted travel plans.

“I was frequently meeting Naveenji. However, due to Covid-19 pandemic, I was not able to meet him. So, I wanted to meet him,” the Bihar CM said.

BJD’s equidistant approach

While some sections of the press speculated on Nitish Kumar’s attempt to woo Naveen Patnaik into the opposition alliance, political analysts had predicted that the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) would maintain a cautious distance from both the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress. This approach aligns with the party’s consistent strategy under Naveen Patnaik’s leadership. The BJD has often supported the BJP government in passing significant bills in the Parliament, indicating a pragmatic inclination towards siding with the ruling party to ensure legislative progress.

Mamata Banerjee meeting and future engagements

It is worth noting that Naveen Patnaik had a recent courtesy meeting with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at his residence. However, the Odisha CM clarified that the meeting held no political implications. As for Nitish Kumar, his upcoming schedule includes meetings with the leaders of the “Maha Vikas Aghadi” in Mumbai, including NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena-UBT chief and former Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. On the other hand, Naveen Patnaik is set to embark on a three-day visit to Delhi.