Federal Front or a failed front?

Dr Satish Misra

Telangana Chief Minister K Chandra Shekhar Rao (KCR), after his victory in the recently held assembly elections in which Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) won 88 seats out of total 119, has been desperately trying to float a non-Congress and non-BJP front that he has christened as a ‘Federal Front’.

KCR has been visiting state capitals meeting chief ministers and leaders of different political parties so that he could remain relevant in national politics and also make a deal for him in case popular verdict in the coming general elections in confusing and unclear.

He travelled to Bhubaneswar on Sunday December 23 to discuss with Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik the idea of Federal Front so that non-BJP and non-Congress regional parties could be brought close to work in tandem. Next day, the Telangana Chief Minister was in Kolkata to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. 

After meeting, KCR told media that the dialogues over the formation of a front will continue and claimed that the talks will soon materialize into something concrete towards a non-BJP, non-Congress front. Neither Patnaik nor Banerjee have given their reactions to their meetings with their Telangana counterpart.    

On December 26, the Telangana Chief Minister was in the Union capital where he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The meeting was termed as a mere “courtesy call”. KCR was very keen to meet Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) Akhilesh Yadav during his stay in New Delhi but he could not meet either of them.

While Akhilesh Yadav has informed that he would travel to Hyderabad to meet KCR, the BSP supremo has reportedly shown not much interest in a meeting. Later KCR may have to travel to Lucknow to meet her in a show of reverence to her.

Next general elections are about four months away and the Election Commission of India is likely to begin the electoral exercise sometimes March next year. In 2014, elections were announced on 5 March 2014 and the same were held in nine phases with first phase on 7 April and last on 12 May.

Results were announced on 16 May when the BJP-led NDA coalition led by then then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi getting an unprecedented mandate with 336 seats and the ruling UPA reduced to 60 Lok Sabha seats with remaining 146 seats going to non-BJP and non-Congress parties.

Telangana Chief Minister had strived to float such a front earlier in March this year when he had visited some state capitals to get support from regional leaders. KCR had visited Kolkata to meet Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. After the meeting, CR had told the media that “a good beginning has been made to take on the BJP and the Congress”.

West Bengal Chief Minister was more circumspect in her observation and had said:” It is not like whatever Mr Rao has said, I completely agree with that. But let him speak. If something happens you will get to know”. “Sometimes in politics, situations become such that people have to come together to work…We want a strong front but we are not in hurry”, she added.  

However, much progress was not made because possible partners could not agree on the objectives of a federal front. The idea of a federal front remained in slumber. It has again been revived by TRS chief who has been looking for a national role wanting to pave way for his son K T Rama Rao to take over the TRS mantle from him. K T Rama Rao, who won the assembly elections and is the working president of the TRS, He was a minister in KCR’s the last government.

Left to him, KCR would love to rope in BJD in Odisha, TMC in West Bengal, BSP and SP in Uttar Pradesh, and may be AIADMK in Tamil Nadu in his mission. KCR is trying to emerge as a kingmaker in case neither the NDA nor the UPA has a clear majority. KCR mission’s success or failure depends upon a hung verdict when in that case majority of the constituents would leave the front and would try to grab power and positions. 

It is not an easy task as every regional leader has their respective agenda and their own ambitions. For example, both Mayawati as well as Mamata Banerjee see themselves as future prime ministers. Even KCR sees a big role for him at the Centre. While KCR requires the idea of a ‘Federal Front’ to gain traction so that he could create a perception in popular mind that he is not working to create such a front to help the BJP that needs to keep the opposition divided for electoral gains.

But his claims notwithstanding, people have their own understanding and it seems unlikely that Telangana electorate would take his words at the face value. Electorate has matured over years and its electoral behavior changes with the nature of elections at hand. People often enough vote differently in national and state elections.    

Telangana that has about 18 percent minority votes and if a perception came to be created that KCR is close to BJP or he is working for the saffron party then minority that voted for TRS in substantial numbers in the recently held elections may vote for the Congress or other secular parties.   

At the present juncture, there are many inherent contradictions for such a front to succeed.Undoubtedly, there is both scope as well as a need for such a front. Detailed discussions among leaders and academics have to precede before foundations for such a front could be laid. Much groundworkis required to be done to create a formwork in which a federal front could be evolved over a period. 

Some lose contraption may emerge before the elections in which different parties may declare a front to hide their post-election options but it would disappear like the way it came.

KCR has not done anything of this sort. He has embarked upon his political mission for his own political success or his political survival. It is sheer political expediency. Until now, entire effort appears to be a one-way traffic. Federal Front seems to be stillborn idea and may meet the fate of a failed front.       

Dr. Satish Misra is a Veteran Journalist & Research Associate with Observer Research Foundation.

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