The poll juggernaut begins to roll from Kolkata

The poll juggernaut begins to roll from Kolkata

The race for firming up the grip by regional parties in deciding the next government at centre has begun and all out efforts are being made by the chief ministers of the two Telugu speaking states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh While KCR wants to form a Federal Front which would be anti BJP and antiCongress, Naidu wants to stitch an alliance of all anti BJP parties Interestingly, both leaders ar

The race for firming up the grip by regional parties in deciding the next government at centre has begun and all out efforts are being made by the chief ministers of the two Telugu speaking states Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. While KCR wants to form a Federal Front which would be anti- BJP and anti-Congress, Naidu wants to stitch an alliance of all anti BJP parties. Interestingly, both leaders are talking of post-poll alliances based on the verdict of the Lok Sabha election.

According to the assessment of the TRS, Congress on its own will not get more than 170 seats and the BJP may end up by winning 150-160 seats. The situation at national level is not at all favourable for either of the two national parties and hence it was time to speed up the process of uniting the regional parties so that they can play a crucial role in forming the next government. The TRS has taken a public stand that both these national parties had done great injustice to the country and hence it was time to pack them off.

The exercise by both the leaders to form alliances now seems to be taking a clear shape. While the proposed front or Mahagathbandhan for which Naidu had taken the initiative has brought together the Congress party, Trinamool Congress and other parties led by Sharad Pawar, Farooq Abdullah, DMK etc, clarity regarding the partners of proposed Federal Front is yet to come.

The front for which Naidu has taken the initiative which so far was just holding talks has now decided to give a kind of shape to the alliances and announce their intention to fight against the BJP on Saturday when they would be attending the mammoth rally organised by TMC president Mamata Banerjee. The list of those who would be attending the meeting is fairly long.

Akhilesh Yadav and Sharad Pawar, former prime minister HD Devegowda, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) president MK Stalin, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Tejaswi Yadav, National Conference supremo Farooq Abdullah and his son Omar Abdullah, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Satish Misra, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief Ajit Singh and leader Jayant Chowdhury, former Union finance minister and BJP dissident Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie, Opposition leader in Mizoram Lalduhawma, former Arunachal Pradesh chief minister Gegong Apang, former Jharkhand chief minister Hemant Soren, Gujarat independent MLA and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani, and Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel apart from BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha are among those who will attend the anti BJP rally.

On the other hand, KCR has so far been banking upon Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, YSRCP, Samajwadi party and Bahujan Samaj party. TRS leaders argue that by forming an alliance in Uttar Pradesh, the BSP and SP have proved that they are maintaining equal distance from Congress and BJP and hence they are also the prospective partners for the proposed Federal Front. But Akhilesh is attending the Kolkata meeting and Mayawati is sending her representatives sending mixed signals.

As of now YSRCP is the only party that has shown keen interest in Federal Front and a formal decision is likely to be announced after KCR meets Y S Jaganmohan Reddy at Vijayawada soon. TRS feels that the TDP would lose the next election and the YSRCP Congress would emerge as a major player and this would give them greater strength to claim their pound of flesh from which ever party leads the government at centre. TRS-YSRCP combine can be the game changers, KCR opines.

Coming back to Saturday’s Kolkata meeting, the moot question is what would the Kolkata rally achieve? The anti-BJP leaders feel that this will be a strong expression of intent to jointly take on the BJP. This meeting would be followed by some more such meetings including the one at Amaravati to be held by TDP in February. The TDP feels that apart from bringing all the anti-BJP parties closer, the Amaravati meeting will also provide an opportunity to show case what the TDP had achieved in last four years and eight months.

The participants in Mamata’s rally seem to be of strong opinion that if they fight the elections without any pre-poll alliance they will win more seats and once the elections are over they can pool the seats and then decide as to who would lead the alliance and rule the country.

In Andhra Pradesh any pre- poll alliance between TDP and Congress could damage the prospects of TDP. The TDP cadre is opposed to having any alliance with Congress particularly in view of the recent Telangana Assembly election results. Similarly, in West Bengal, the Congress and the Trinamool are bitter rivals. The West Bengal Congress has been urging Rahul Gandhi not to go for any coalition with TMC.

If this experiment gets the desired result, the main problem before the anti- BJP front would be to come up with a workable model of alliance. If the BJP juggernaut stops around 160 and if the Congress wins more than that then there is possibility that there could be a Congress-led alliance as it happened in 2004. If this model is adopted there is every possibility that there would be a race for Prime Ministership between Rahul Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee. In fact, the mega event at Kolkata is being seen by political observers as a launch pad for Banerjee’s campaign for the top office in New Delhi.

Another possibility is that they can go in for 1996 model when Congress supported other parties. But this option seems to be a remote possibility as all regional parties are well aware that such an alliance cannot last its full term. There could also be another option where some regional parties may agree to sail with BJP provided Narendra Modi does not head the coalition government.

However, for the present all eyes are on the high voltage United India Rally at Kolkata on January 19. Already lakhs of Trinamool Congress activists and supporters from across West Bengal have thronged the city a day ahead of the Rally'. TMC has made elaborate arrangements for what is being billed as the largest event in West Bengal since Independence.

Mamata Banerjee strongly believes that "It will be a 'United India Rally' against the misrule of the BJP. It will sound the death knell for the BJP...The saffron party's seat count in the general election will not cross 125. The number of seats the state parties will win will be much higher than that of the BJP's, and the regional parties will be the deciding factors after the election”.

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