Bhubaneswar, Dec 17 (PTI) Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani Monday suspected a political motive behind Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s maiden visit to Surat ahead of the 2019 general elections.

While Rupani came down to the capital of Odisha to address a press conference on the Rafale fighter aircraft deal in the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment, Patnaik flew out to Gujarat the same day to attend a festival of Odia migrant labourers in Surat.

Denying it was a “coincidence”, Rupani hit out saying Patnaik remembered the people of Odisha staying in Gujarat “after being in power for 19 years”.

However, he stressed that his Odisha visit had nothing to do with politics.

“Gujarat is not going to polls but assembly election in Odisha is round the corner. I welcome him on his maiden visit,” Rupani said.

Patnaik’s Surat visit attained political hue because the textile city houses about 10 lakh Odias including seven lakh alone from Ganjam, the home district of the chief minister. These migrant labourers will return to Odisha to cast their votes.

Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and senior Congress leader Narasingha Mishra on Sunday described Patnaik’s Gujarat visit a “political gimmick”.

Replying to a question on Odisha government rejecting the Ayushman Bharat programme, Rupani alleged that by doing so, Patnaik was depriving Odias residing outside Odisha of healthcare benefits.

The benefits of the state-sponsored Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana cannot be availed by the beneficiaries beyond the state’s boundaries, he said and urged Patnaik to be part of Ayushman Bharat programme.

Claiming that the Gujarat government was equally concerned about the wellbeing of the Odia speaking people in Gujarat, he said, the BJP regime in Gujarat had provided them with good homes under Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana and Mukhya Mantri Awaas Yojana.

Reacting to Rupani’s statement on Patnaik’s Surat visit, BJD spokesman P K Deb said, “Why is Gujarat Chief Minister here in Odisha when our CM is scheduled to visit Surat today? It seems BJP is terrified of CM Naveen’s visit”.

Rejecting Rupani’s claim that the Odias living in other states cannot avail the benefits of the Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana, Deb said “The non-resident Odias are also entitled to get benefits from Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana wherever they are in the country.”

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.