The impact of Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) electoral hat-trick in Delhi is being felt in far-away Telangana.
It has prompted the K Chandrasekhar Rao-led Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) to raise the pitch on federal issues and go aggressive on the rights of states. The development has rekindled the hopes of TRS to bring together the regional parties on a common platform.
With the BJP losing one state after the other to regional parties and the Congress being unable to reinvent itself, there is scope for reviving the Federal Front, an aborted project of the Telangana party.
While it is premature to talk about the formation of such a front since the next general elections are four years away, the TRS leadership is of the view that the regional parties would gain further strength in the days ahead and would be in a position to guide the course of national politics.
A senior TRS leader told The Federal that the outcome of the coming round of assembly elections in West Bengal, Bihar and Tamil Nadu would further reinforce the role of regional parties. Moreover, there is a growing convergence among regional parties on contentious issues of CAA and NRC.
Soon after the announcement of the Delhi poll results, the TRS stepped up its attack on the NDA government over matters having a bearing on the Centre-state relations like the dwindling share of the states in the tax devolution, allocation of central funds and pending projects.
After his Federal Front idea came a cropper last polls, KCR now wants to use the anti-CAA movement to play a larger role in national politics. He has already announced that he would convene a meeting of chief ministers and heads of regional parties in Hyderabad as part of efforts to mobilise public opinion in favour of scrapping the new citizenship law.
The proposed meeting of CMs and regional party heads would serve as an opportunity to revive the concept of the federal front with a common national agenda, as an alternative to the BJP and the Congress, the TRS leader said.
“It may not materialise immediately, but it would certainly be a beginning in that direction,” he said.
“It is time to realise that the development of states will lead to the nation’s development. Though the Constitution has said that India will be a Union of States, what has emerged so far is a ‘Unitary State’ instead of a true Union of States,” he says.
The Federal Front, it is argued, would be able to correct the “historical imbalances” in the developmental model and would put the country on a high growth trajectory.
“The successive governments of Congress and BJP have failed to meet the aspirations of the people and solve the pressing problems facing the country. With a common strategy and a set of well-defined programmes, the Federal Front has the potential to transform the country’s infrastructure, irrigation, agriculture and industries sectors,” the TRS sources said.
The party working president and industries minister KT Rama Rao exuded confidence that “in the near future, a truly federal dispensation would emerge at the Centre”.
While speaking at a media event in Delhi recently, Rao, who is the son of Chief Minister Chandrasekhar Rao, argued that the chances of a federal front leading the nation were brighter now with the BJP suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of AAP, a regional party.
“In fact, there are only regional parties in the country now. Even the BJP and the Congress are also reduced to the status of regional parties, but a little bigger in size. Barring Karnataka, the BJP does not have any presence in the south, and the Congress is fast disappearing from the scene in many states,” he said.
There was a growing realisation about the need for strengthening federal spirit in governance, he said and pointed out how over-centralisation of powers was harming the interests of the states.
Telangana has long argued that it was facing deliberate discrimination in terms of allocations in the Union Budget.
“In the last five years, Telangana had contributed ₹2.75 lakh crore as taxes to the central kitty but it got back only ₹1.15 lakh crore as devolutions. If the Centre is committed to its slogans of Team India and Cooperative Federalism, then it should revisit the devolution formula,” the vice-chairperson of the state planning board B Vinod Kumar said.
No takers for Front
When KCR first mooted the idea of Federal Front in March 2018, there were not many takers. Though he met a string regional satraps like HD Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal (Secular), MK Stalin of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal, Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Hemanth Soren of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) and Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, the proposal did not move forward.
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Back home, he also held talks with Asaduddin Owaisi of the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and YS Jagan Mohan Reddy of the YSR Congress party, which rules fellow-Telugu state, Andhra Pradesh.
With the BJP returning to power at the Centre with a massive mandate last year, the idea of a grand alliance of regional parties fell flat.
Now, with AAP’s victory in Delhi, there is a sense of optimism in the TRS camp. “By the next elections, even the Nationalist Congress Party and JD(S) can be roped into the federal front plan,” the TRS sources said.
However, the BJP dismissed the talk of reviving Federal Front as a figment of KCR’s imagination. “There is no such possibility. With their inherent greed for power, these regional satraps can never come together as an electoral coalition,” the state BJP spokesperson K Krishna Sagar Rao said.
“If at all there has to be such an arrangement, it will only happen in the post-poll scenario,” a political analyst and Osmania University professor K Nageshwar said.
Former Congress MP from Telangana Madhu Yakshi Goud said the TRS supremo was playing into the hands of Modi-Shah and would only end up dividing the anti-BJP vote.
“This is a ploy to help the BJP,” Goud said.