Ruling BJD President and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Thursday said his party has not taken any stand on the ensuing presidential election even as he has been invited to Rashtrapati Bhavan for a lunch on Friday. “I have been invited for lunch by the President tomorrow,” Patnaik said before leaving for the national capital on Thursday. Asked about the purpose of the President’s invitation, Patnaik said, “No purpose is indicated in the invitation. JDU has not taken any stand on the ensuing presidential election.” The President will be meeting Naveen at the Rashtrapati Bhawan between 2 pm to 3 pm on Friday.
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Patnaik said during his visit to Delhi, he will meet Union Power Minister this evening and attend the Non-Resident Odia Conference. “The President will be attending the conference as well,” the chief minister said.
The invitation to Patnaik ahead of the July, 2017 presidential election is significant as he is also the President of the BJD that has 28 MPs (20 in Lok Sabha and 8 in Rajya Sabha) in the Parliament besides enjoying support of another Independent Rajya Sabha MP.
This apart, Patnaik’s party has 117 MLAs in the House of 147 besides support of two other Independent members. Therefore, the BJD could play a vital role in the ensuing presidential elections.
Patnaik, who played a crucial role in the previous presidential election in 2012, was opposed to Congress-supported Pranab Mukherjee last time. The BJD supremo with support of the then AIADMK supremo J Jayalalitha, had made late P A Sangma as the candidate in the presidential elections but Sangma lost the polls.
An invitation from the President sparked speculation in the political circle here as regional parties like BJD, AIADMK of Tamil Nadu and West Bengal’s Trinamool Congress are likely to play a key role in the President’s election.