BJD wants third front, special status for Odisha

New Delhi, June 12 (IANS) Amid talks of a third front in the 2014 polls, nearly 30,000 people from Odisha led by BJD president and Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik gathered at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi Wednesday to protest the centre's apathy towards the state's demand for a special category status.

"Around 30,000 people are attending the Swabhiman Samavesh rally at Ramlila Maidan in Delhi," Vinod Dhawan, a protester, told IANS.

"It has been a very long-standing demand of Odisha for the special category status. The state satisfies the existing criteria for special status," Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader and Lok Sabha member Jay Panda told a TV news channel here.

"Some states who have three times the per capita income of Odisha, and twice of what the national average is, are getting special category benefits," he added.

The chief minister has been pressing for the special category status for Odisha, citing the state as one of the poorest in the country. He has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh many times in this regard.

According to Patnaik, Odisha satisfies most of the criteria for special status, except that it does not have an international boundary.

Patnaik Tuesday said a third front was possible, and Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said after meeting JD-U leader K.C. Tyagi in Kolkata that she has spoken to Patnaik and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on forming a federal front.

"I made an appeal through Facebook for setting up a non-Congress and non-BJP federal front. I have already discussed the matter with Naven Patnaik and Nitish Kumar. They have responded positively," Banerjee said after her talks with Tyagi.

She added that some other leaders also deliberated with her on the matter. "We will meet at an appropriate time."

Tyagi, who called his visit a "courtesy call", said "both the UPA and the BJP have failed".

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