Telangana chief minister K.Chandrashekhar Rao is back at his idea of forming a Federal Front – a combination consisting of non-Congress, non-BJP parties. He is going around the country trying to build a consensus on such a front. According to him, it is needed to bring about a qualitative change in the country’s politics. If anti-Congress-ism was the cornerstone of the previous political formations, anti-BJPism is the key factor now.
The idea of a third front or federal front is not new. For instance during the Vajpayee era, leaders like Mamata Banerjee wanted to form a pressure group within the NDA but it did not take off. Then the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) came in 2007, which had regional leaders like Jayalalithaa and Mulayam Singh but this too did not take off.
Is the time opportune for a federal front now? The Modi magic is waning, going by the recent Assembly poll results in the Hindi heartland. The BJP’s allies are leaving one by one. Shiv Sena is threatening to go it alone and Telugu Desam has already quit. Rashtriya Lok Sama Party in Bihar has just left.
Interestingly, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandra Babu Naidu is also on a mission to form an anti-BJP front. Naidu wants to be the facilitator of a Mahaghatbandhan including the Congress against the NDA.
KCR is working to a plan. The first thing he wanted was to firm up his position in the state, which he has achieved after winning a massive mandate in the December Telangana Assembly elections. Now he has turned his attention to his second step of national leadership. Insiders claim he would like to anoint his son K T Rama Rao as chief minister if he succeeds in this effort. He has already promoted his son as the working president of his party.
Becoming prime ministerial candidate is also part of his grand plan as he thinks that if IK Gujral or Deve Gowda could become the head of United Front governments, why should he not try? History tells us that a ‘third-front’ without the backing of a national party, Congress, in this case, cannot succeed.
Many believe that the Congress cannot be bypassed, particularly now that it is looking up after winning Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh this month. KCR believes that of the 543 Lok Sabha seats, 255 are in the 14 states where there is a fight between the BJP and the Congress. Of the remaining 288 seats in 15 states, the fight is among regional parties and national parties. KCR feels he can become a kingmaker if a strong federal front emerged that could cobble up 288 seats in 15 states.
However, there are many hurdles to cross. The first is that KCR is banking on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Whether she will go with the Congress anchored anti-BJP front or with the federal front is not known as she is keeping her options open. Though KCR has made several trips to Kolkata she has not firmed up her stand.
Secondly, KCR does not have a national standing. Leaders like Naveen Patnaik and Mamata Banerjee have been around in politics much longer than him and have more of a popular base in their respective states.
Thirdly, the ego problem will be a big hindrance. Each one of the regional satraps has a king-size ego. So working in such a setup would be like the UNPA when Jayalalitha left in a huff because she felt she was not getting her due. The leadership of the Federal Front would also remain a big question mark.
Fourthly, Modi came to power with 31 per cent vote share and 69 per cent is still outside. Unless 50 per cent of them come together, BJP may not be defeated.
Fifthly, while KCR is engaged in forming a Federal Front, his bête noire Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu is busy gathering the non-BJP opposition forces. He is also talking to the same leaders like Mulayam Singh, Mayawati, Mamata, Naveen Patnaik and others who are all keeping their options open. Naidu has much more experience in dealing with these leaders than KCR.
Sixthly, the Congress calls the TRS the B team of the BJP and suspects that KCR is indulging in this gimmick to break opposition unity. Doubts have been expressed in some quarters that KCR is playing a double game to split the anti-Modi votes. Even during the Telangana polls, there have been reports that KCR would get support from Modi in case he required some votes in the post-poll scenario.
Lastly, KCR’s idea may not work in the present scenario. He has been in power only since 2014 and has already proved an unreliable ally as he dumped BJP post-2008 and later the Congress in 2014. And he is also not known to be accommodative. To be the leader of a Third Front, a statesman is required, a quality that KCR is yet to display. As of now KCR is living in a dream world and when he wakes up he will know the reality.