Much before talk of mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) to take on the BJP-led NDA at the national level, a powerful regional satrap and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao had floated the idea of the Federal Front — a non-BJP, non-Congress alternative comprising like-minded regional parties.
However, when KCR, as the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) supremo is popularly known, mooted the proposal in March 2018, there were not many takers. The formulation did not find traction among some of the key opposition players. The critics dubbed it a ploy to spread confusion in the Opposition camp, which could ultimately benefit the BJP.
In fact, the Federal Front was widely seen as a B-team of BJP, given KCR’s unqualified support to the NDA government on issues like demonetisation and GST.
As a result, the Federal Front remained a non-starter with some reports even suggesting that he was cold-shouldered by the likes of Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, the two key regional players.
Image make-over exercise
Apparently, to counter the charge that he was the B-team of BJP bent upon serving the political interests of the saffron party, KCR has chosen to initiate dialogue with the leaders of the left parties to muster support for the Federal Front idea.
As part of the phase-II of his mission, the Chief Minister left for Thiruvananthapuram on Monday (May 6) where he is scheduled to meet his Kerala counterpart and veteran CPI (M) leader Pinarayi Vijayan.
“Both the leaders will discuss the emerging political situation,” an official of the Chief Minister’s Office said in Hyderabad.
The visit assumes significance as it coincides with the fifth phase of polling in 51 constituencies spread over seven states involving some of the high-profile constituencies. With just 17 days left for the declaration of the results, the TRS supremo, who is hoping to corner a major chunk of the 17 LS seats in Telangana, is keen to step up efforts to build support for Federal Front.
Interestingly, the first stop in his renewed mission is Kerala to meet the leaders of the Left parties. This is to dispel the notion that he was acting at the behest of the BJP.
1996-type fractured verdict
The calculation in the TRS camp is that the LS polls would throw up a “1996-type fractured mandate” and in such an eventuality the Federal Front of regional parties would be able to play a decisive role in the government formation.
“Though it now seems improbable, the TRS is hoping that KCR may even emerge as a consensus candidate for PM’s post similar to how Deve Gowda was chosen by the United Front in 1996. It must be noted that a clear succession plan is already in place in the ruling party with CM’s son (K T Rama Rao) being made the working president,” a senior political analyst and former member of the Telangana Legislative Council Prof K Nageshwar said.
Series of visits
In the next round, KCR will visit Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh to meet leaders of JD(S), DMK and YSR Congress Party. He will then follow it up with visits to Odisha, West Bengal, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi, sources close to him said.
The Chief Minister is reportedly in touch with the leaders of the Trinamool Congress, Biju Janta Dal, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (S) and DMK. He already has the support of the YSR Congress Party headed by Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had recently endorsed the idea of Federal Front and asserted that neither the BJP-led NDA nor the Congress-led UPA would be in a position to stake claim for government formation at the Centre.
Echoing KCR’s views, she predicted that the regional parties would be able to mop up majority of the Lok Sabha seats in States like her own West Bengal, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, which together account for a sizable chunk of 185 seats. And, the Federal Front partners would sit together and decide about Prime Ministerial candidate through consensus.
KCR had met Mamata on March 18 last year and discussed his proposal. He followed it up with meetings with leaders like Navin Patnaik, Akhilesh Yadav, Deve Gowda and MK Stalin.
During the electioneering for the April 11 polls to the Lok Sabha, TRS leaders focused on the need for the regional parties to come together to “eliminate the two national parties from the game”.
On his part, the Chief Minister has predicted that the national tally of BJP and Congress would not exceed 150 and 100 seats respectively.
The TRS leaders cite the collapse of Congress-AAP alliance talks and the snubbing of the grand old party by the BSP to argue that the time is ripe for like-minded regional parties to come together under the umbrella of Federal Front and present an alternative to the people.
KCR’s son Rama Rao, KTR as he is popularly known, says that the Federal Front would decide who the next Prime Minister would be and the agenda of the next government.
“Saar plus car ante Delhilo sarkar” (KCR and TRS’s car symbol will mean our government in Delhi)” was the new slogan that dominated the regional party’s poll campaign.
The idea behind the Federal Front is to foster true federal spirit by strengthening the voice of the regional parties in the Parliament and end the domination of the two national parties.
The TRS hopes to repeat its Assembly performance and sweep the Lok Sabha polls, eyeing to capture 16 of the total 17 seats in the state, while leaving Hyderabad LS seat to its ally All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) whose president Asaduddin Owaisi has been representing the constituency since 2004.
Regional aspirations must have a say
“The regional aspirations will find greater resonance in such a coalition arrangement at the Centre,” says KTR.
“It is time to realize that development of States will lead to 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 would be able to correct the “historical imbalances” in the developmental model and would put the country on a high growth trajectory, it is argued. “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,” KCR had said while unveiling his idea in March last year.
Since Congress is his principal adversary in Telangana, KCR is averse to associating himself with any formation at national level of which Congress is a partner.