The CPI(M) general secretary, Sitaram Yechury, will meet Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik in Bhubaneswar on Thursday afternoon, in a crucial negotiation for the Opposition in the upcoming presidential polls.
Any support from the Biju Janata Dal, which has more than 32,500 votes, can give the Opposition a fighting chance against the ruling NDA in the election.
“I will be meeting Naveen babu this afternoon,” Yechury told HT from Bhubaneswar.
The election for the country’s highest office will take place in July.
Patnaik’s BJD is traditionally opposed to the Congress but has also woken up to the increasing BJP threat in its state. In the recent rural polls in Odisha, the BJP improved its tally by 850%, eating mostly into the Congress’ traditional votes.
As the Congress was wary of opening direct communication with Patnaik, party president Sonia Gandhi had requested Sitaram Yechury to negotiate with the Odisha chief minister.
In the last election, it was Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa who first fielded P A Sangma as an independent candidate. Sangma’s candidature was quickly supported by the BJP and its allies, leading to a contest against UPA’s nominee Pranab Mukherjee.
Top sources told HT that the Opposition has decided to field a candidate in the Presidential poll but will keep no stones unturned to reach out to rivals and fence-sitters.
The Opposition also plans to knock the doors of Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, the two disgruntled allies of the BJP. While the BJD had initially supported the Narendra Modi government on various issues, the party has taken an aggressive position in the last few months.