On stage and off it, Odisha and Tamil Nadu chief ministers, Naveen Patnaik and J Jayalalithaa, courted each other with open declarations of mutual admiration and respect as they made a joint appearance at the Odisha Foundation Day celebrations at the University of Madras on Friday. Though the context was socio-cultural ties, its political significance was not missed. Members of the Utkal Association of Madras, organizer of the event, were quite excited wondering whether the two CMs, beaming and smiling at the cameras and chatting intermittently, were speaking of matters of political import like the presidential elections in July and a possible formation of a third front.
"We know they are meeting again over lunch and afterwards at Madam Jayalalithaa's Poes Garden residence and so there are possibilities," they said. Jayalalithaa and Patnaik have met twice in Delhi in the recent past, during the two meetings called by the Centre to discuss internal security and the proposed National Counter-Terrorism Centre.
Speaking at the function, the two CMs lavished praise on each other's pet schemes. "There was a natural synergy between Biju Patnaik and me. I thrice hosted him in Tamil Nadu. He was a colossus in politics and was a father figure to me. I am happy to host his son Naveen, who is like a brother to me," Jayalalithaa said. She recalled the "historical links" between the ancient Kalinga and Chola empires. In the current context, she spoke of "acting and prospering together in the federal structure with outcomes leading to larger collective benefit".
After watching a dance troupe from Odisha perform, the two CMs left for the Trade Centre at Nandambakkam where Jayalalithaa hosted over an hour-long luncheon attended by all parties except DMK and DMDK. They then proceeded to Poes Garden where the duo had a 40-minute long private meeting but the media, expecting a major announcement was disappointed.
Jayalalithaa flatly denied there was any discussion about the presidential election. Asked about Patnaik's proposal that she head the sub-committee of CMs on the NCTC, she said it was for the Union home ministry to take a call.
FUNCTION DELAYED BY OVER A MONTH
For the first time in Odisha's history, the state's 76th foundation day was celebrated here on May 11 instead of April 1. "We traditionally celebrate the day on April 1, but due to non-availability of both chief ministers on that date, the function was delayed," a member of the Utkal Association of Madras said. At the centenary auditorium of the Madras university, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa unveiled the foundation stone of the proposed Odisha Bhavan, which will come up on 12,000 sq ft of land in Velachery. Jayalalithaa honoured eminent Odissi exponent Kumkum Mohanty, snow and sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik, musical stalwarts Vani Jairam and Ilayaraja.