Federal front regroups

Despite the return of KCR in post-poll negotiations, the anti-BJP coalition has a lot of hurdles

The problem with the concept of mahagathbandhan — an alliance of regional parties that are as against the BJP as the Congress — is that its constituents never coalesce together with confidence despite their command over the grassroots. Somewhere they are scared of seizing the national agenda collectively and are reconciled to their limited territorial might, clutching on to prominent national parties as props for a pan-Indian sustenance. Worst, for the best of ambitions, they are more prone to bargaining the best deal for their respective fiefs and fritter away their tally and common ground all too easily. This uncertainty between intention and execution has prevented the federal front from acquiring critical mass. Besides, the policy paralysis of coalition front governments at the Centre has definitely bred voter fatigue over time. Nobody trusts a pyrrhic leadership race anymore. The same half-hearted co-existence of disparate interests sounded the knell of an anti-BJP front this election, the SP and the BSP being the only exception in Uttar Pradesh. That, too, by the way, is rooted in their need to hold on to their turf and not be swamped by national parties. Now when some pollsters have predicted that both the BJP and Congress may not get the magic numbers on their own and that regional players may put up a determined show, talk of a federal front has gathered momentum in a post-poll scenario. Except this time, all are on the same page about shedding equidistance and choosing the Congress as the much-needed adhesive.

The federal front’s one-time architect and Telangana Chief Minister, K Chandrashekar Rao, has spurred into action again, holding meetings with Kerala’s Leftist Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and hoping to get Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and DMK’s Stalin on board. He is keen to form a southern bloc in post-poll negotiations and restore the trust among other parties, who were upset about his intransigence on including the Congress and had seen him as a B team of the BJP. Clearly, he doesn’t want to be left out of possibilities and is trying to assuage the anxieties of both archrival and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Bengal counterpart and his original ally, Mamata Banerjee. The larger question is whether Didi, who is now helming the federal front, will be comfortable with him or not. She was none too happy when despite going the mile with KCR, the wily leader had left the door ajar for possible negotiations with the BJP and a rewarding largesse for his newly-formed state. Hence the renewed diplomacy now to dispel fears of him being a sellout. KCR himself knows that if there’s anybody who can ultimately strike a balance between allies and the Congress in the larger picture, it will be Mamata Banerjee. So has he subsumed his ego or is he playing saboteur once again? Meanwhile Naidu has spoken to Congress chief Rahul Gandhi about an all-Opposition parties meeting on May 21 to discuss the possibilities of a conglomerate government in case of a fractured mandate. The Congress may be ready to take the Karnataka model ahead but would it stay out of the leadership race if it manages to improve its numbers? Rahul Gandhi has after all led the party to victory in three different States and would be amped up with additional gains if any. He could emerge consensus among the colliding heads of aspirant front PMs — NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Naidu, Mamata and BSP’s Mayawati. Most importantly, would any of the federal front leaders agree to cede ground to a first among equals? Besides, if everybody is so keen, why didn’t they show the same urgency for a pre-poll arrangement knowing full well that a post-poll arithmetic usually doesn’t hold ground with the President as a first option? The prospects are still hazy.