Birth pangs for alternative front

Birth pangs for alternative front

In a rare bonhomie, as many as 13 political parties with divergent issues of agenda came together on Thursday and formed a human chain at Parliament House, with the statue of the Father of Nation providing an impressive background. Even arch-rivals like the Congress and the TDP leaders were seen rubbing shoulders.

In a rare bonhomie, as many as 13 political parties with divergent issues of agenda came together on Thursday and formed a human chain at Parliament House, with the statue of the Father of Nation providing an impressive background. Even arch-rivals like the Congress and the TDP leaders were seen rubbing shoulders. Each party had its own grievance but all of them had one cementing factor.

They all want revamp of the Centre-State relations, on an equal footing. The common factor as well as the common refrain of the day was how the Modi government was riding roughshod over the concerns of state governments, muzzling democratic voices of people and trampling upon the hallowed tenets of cooperative federalism. It quite put the BJP in poor light, whom even its allies are accusing of undermining the coalition dharma.

Telugu CMs Naidu and KCR who were hitherto overtly and covertly supporting the BJP have now turned against it and even unleashed a campaign to whip up a nationwide anti-BJP sentiment. Both the leaders are striving in pursuit of this end, albeit separately. They are trying to unite various forces, thereby throwing ample hints that they will not mind foraying into national politics, if need be.

While the AP Chief Minister, on the face of it, denies any move to move on to the national arena, his Telangana counterpart is quite open and minces no words about the need to rally all the forces to present an alternative to the NDA, in the best interests of the states for an equitable share in resources as well as policy decisions.

KCR has taken it upon himself to handhold his brainchild and says he won’t shirk from taking the lead and play the role of kingmaker at national level. Thus, the aim of both CMs is apparent – to give a new dimension to the federal structure of the Indian polity.

KCR is quite vocal about strong states and limited role for Centre. Naidu now and then has been throwing hints that he too subscribes to the concept, but is not coming out in the open, perhaps, for fear of being dubbed as one hankering after power at the Centre. A hardcore idealist to the core, KCR, thus, seems to be emulating none other than N T Rama Rao who took the first initiative to unite the warring Opposition parties by organising a conclave in Vijayawada in May 1983.

Before floating the National Front in 1988-89, NTR called national leaders of several parties over to Mahanadu, the biennial conclave of the Telugu Desam, and brought them all under one roof. Drawing inspiration from his idol’s trailblazing move in Indian history against the Congress, KCR is seeking to strike a different note. He proposes to gather all leading lights of regional parties under one umbrella – either in Hyderabad or nation’s capital – whereunder a formal front will be floated to take the battle to Delhi. The regional leaders too would be invited to attend the forthcoming plenary of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti.

While NTR formed the National Front against the Congress party, putting no terms or bar on member-constituents, Rao is planning to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative at the national level. Political analysts aver that Rao is likely to announce the Third Front on the TRS foundation day, April 27. Since floating such a front will signal his entry into national politics, TRS leaders from Nalgonda district have invited him to contest the Nalgonda Lok Sabha seat in the next General Elections. If he intends to do so, he may well hold the TRS foundation day fete in Nalgonda.

Meanwhile, it is interesting to take note of another effort being made in Kerala to unite all anti-BJP parties. The Southern Finance Ministers' conclave to be held in Thiruvananthapuram on April 10 will dwell on how the central government led by BJP had created problems for the state governments and how the spirit of federal cooperation has been given a go-by.

The Finance Ministers would lay bare how the Centre is trying to arm-twisting the states by not releasing funds. The conclave will come out with a resolution on the measures that need to be taken to correct the malady. The conclave will have more of political overtones, rather than addressing solely the financial concerns of states vis-à-vis Centre’s.

However, the going will not be as smooth as it was during NTR’s time. The efforts for opposition unity are not an easy task as every party is faced with their own internal contradictions. People in their respective states, parties and observers are wracking their brains if Mamata will sail with Congress, if Naidu would rub shoulders with Rahul, or if KCR will give up his hard stance and come around to be part of an essentially non-BJP front, etc.

Andhra Pradesh again is a simple and latest example of how every party is on the street fighting against a common enemy, BJP led NDA government. All these contradictions are nowhere more acute than in Andhra Pradesh. All the political parties have a common grievance that Andhra Pradesh has been left in lurch by the NDA government which went back on its promise to keep promises made in the AP State Reorganisation Act 2014.

All of them are vociferously demanding the special category status and claiming to be solely representing the wishes of five crore people of the state. But, alas, there has not been a single occasion when they came together on one platform and raised their voice in unison. None is willing to bury their hatchet and fight unitedly. Every party, whether it be the main opposition or the ruling party, is only interested in one-upmanship and electoral gains.

Undoubtedly, the YSRCP had a head-start in demanding special status category and has been egging on the TDP to recall their ministers from Centre and quit NDA. When the TDP finally did that after four years of live-in relationship with NDA, the YSRCP has refused to join hands with it, either in the House or outside.

They even boycotted the Assembly and when the state government convened an all-party meeting, they refused to be party to the collective demand on the Centre to announce the special status for AP, forthwith. The new entrant into politics, actor-turned-politician Pawan Kalyan who found nothing wrong with TDP for four years in respect of special package suddenly took a ‘U’ turn and started lashing at it and is levelling all kinds of allegations without substantiating them.

He made tall claims that if a no-confidence motion was moved against the government, he would go to Delhi and mobilise support. But when politicking intensified and the YSRCP and TDP vied with each other in moving no confidence motions, Pawan went into hibernation. As was his wont, he has suddenly resurfaced and is acting as an ally of Left parties.

For their part, the left parties which were also pointing a finger at TDP for not pulling out of NDA attended the meeting. Even as they berated the TDP for its delayed action on the SCS issue, which resulted in a great loss to the state, they, however, expressed their willingness to join an all-party delegation, if need be, to put pressure on the Centre.

The Congress party, which could have turned the opportunity into an advantage that could have helped in resurrecting its fortunes, is letting go of it, sadly. The state leadership is too feeble to move the people to shed their antagonism against the party over the truncated manner in which the state was bifurcated. The central leadership needs to pay attention to revive the party in Andhra Pradesh.

If the opposition parties, which include two major national parties, in AP cannot come on a common platform on so immediate an issue as the Special Status, can one expect so many disparate parties with divergent issues across the nation to bury their differences and make some major concessions, to take on a strong leader like Narendra Modi?

Can KCR or Naidu unite them under one umbrella and make them commit to a front? It is no secret that no coalition government can survive at the Centre, without support from either Congress or BJP. Congress is still the major opposition party in many states, and, cannot be easily ruled out of any front to take on the BJP. While intellectuals may have different takes on taking such a front forward, the real voter i.e., commoner would contend that under the present circumstances of varying contradictions, the alternative front is but a distant dream.

But, in the days to come there will be no dearth of theatrics by warring camps, to put the rival in poor light. Soon after the Parliament was adjourned sine die on Friday, both camps announced holding of protests over the washout of Budget Session. While BJP MPs would fast on April 12 protesting against the “disruptive tactics” of the opposition, the Congress gave a call for fast on April 9 holding the government responsible for derailing the proceedings. This is just a teaser of how things are going to fan out. It remains to be seen if small and regional parties would wait till the dust settles or join the action right away.

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