KCR, Chandrababu Naidu set the agenda for 2019 polls
Two South Indian leaders are out to play a major role at the centre Are they on mission impossible or are they in striking distance of success First, it was AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu who made a dash to Delhi and brought together nonBJP parties together ostensibly to protect democracy and the nation
Two South Indian leaders are out to play a major role at the centre. Are they on mission impossible or are they in striking distance of success? First, it was AP chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu who made a dash to Delhi and brought together non-BJP parties together ostensibly to "protect democracy" and the nation.
Now it is the turn of Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao, freshly charged after his resounding victory in the Assembly elections, to leave on a political mission to bring all non-BJP and non-Congress parties together.
He had said he would ensure that such a formation comes into effect which would dwell more on national issues that pertain to people rather than hanker after power. He has even announced that his Rythu Bandhu scheme, under which a farmer gets Rs.8,000 per acre per year to farmers in the entire nation after his front comes to power at Delhi.
His aim is to revamp the Indian Constitution to make it truly federal in nature. In this endeavour he wants to bring all non-BJP and non-Congress parties together since he believes both of them are inimical to the interests of the states. He wants to turn the group that he is putting together into a formidable consortium to bring both the national parties to their knees.
On KCR’s list of VIPs, there is Naveen Patnaik who is equidistant from BJP and Congress, whimsical Mamata, mercurial Mayawati and unpredictable Akhilesh Yadav. After chatting up with them, he would call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, against whom he is trying to build an alternative force.
The CMO says KCR's meeting with the prime minister is only a courtesy call which all chief ministers do after winning an election. But the Opposition parties, particularly the Congress and Communists do not see it that way.
Already the CPI has said that KCR was acting like Narendra Modi's secretary and that he would submit a report to him on his interaction with the non-BJP and non-Congress parties to take appropriate measures to help the NDA get an upper hand.
His hidden agenda, according to the left party, is to help the BJP in the end game by splitting Opposition vote. The CPI leaders maintain that KCR knew that he had to pay the piper somewhere down the line for the favours he had received from NDA dispensation.
Interestingly, some of the leaders whom the two leaders met have lent their ears both to Naidu and Rao but no one would know how the cookie would crumble on the day of reckoning. For instance, both Naidu and KCR had already met Mamata Banerjee, and now KCR is meeting her again.
Naidu, immediately after the elections to four north Indian assemblies and Telangana, played the role of a facilitator for a conclave of all non-BJP parties at Delhi where it had been resolved to take the war into the enemy's camp.
The Congress which is walking on the moon following its rise to power in three north Indian states is standing tall now though the party is not ready yet to float a trial balloon of projecting Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate though the intention is visible on the faces of Congress leaders.
The only discordant note was that both Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav gave a miss to the meeting held at Parliament annexe on December 10, a day prior to counting of votes for the five states.
Though all 22 parties which attended the conclave shared their concern over the misrule of Narendra Modi, running down of autonomous institutions and lop-sided economic policies, not much has been discussed on the issues relating to federalism.
Though originally Naidu’s mission was to ensure that the spirit of cooperative federalism would form the cornerstone of the centre's equation with the states, he does not talk much about it these days and the Delhi conclave made it amply clear that more than federalism, it is was intended to build an alternative to replace Modi and then whichever party in the alliance gets maximum number of seats, its leader would become the Prime Minister, provided the alliance gets a majority in Lok Sabha elections.
It is not difficult to guess why Naidu does not stress on federalism since the formation that he is trying to usher in has to necessarily be led by the Congress, which wants a strong Centre, like any other national party.
If he talks too much of decentralisation of powers to the states, it may ruffle the feathers of Rahul Gandhi. Which national party wants to relegate all its powers to the state, and limit policy-making only to areas like economy, monetary policy, defence, inter-state issues, transfer of all subjects in the concurrent list to the state list?
Though AP hosted the second finance ministers’ conference on terms of reference of the 15th Finance Commission in May where the state along with others sought justice to the performing states, Naidu, lately, is not talking about terms of reference after submitting memoranda to the commission. Of late, his focus is to go for Narendra Modi’s jugular for ruining the institutions like RBI and using investigative agencies like the CBI and ED to wreak vengeance against political rivals like the TDP.
At the conference, the participating states took objection to the Finance Commission having been asked to take 2011 census rather than 1971’s as basis for deciding tax devolutions to the states which meant punishing performing states and rewarding those which had no discipline. Interestingly, Telangana did not send its finance minister for the conclave though it had been espousing the cause of federalism more than anyone else.
But, when it comes to KCR, he does not waste time in striking the iron while it is still hot. Immediately after he became the chief minister of Telangana for a second term, he set out on his North Indian mission.
With Akhilesh and Mayawati - leaders who draw a lot of water in national politics - skipping non-BJP parties’ conclave organised by Naidu at Delhi, he began efforts to win them over to his non-BJP, non-Congress alliance since they happen to be leaders of powerful parties in Uttar Pradesh which holds the key to the doors to power at Delhi. Both of them were chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh in the past.
While Chandrababu Naidu, after burying the hatchet, is now working with the Congress hand in hand, KCR is on a bigger mission of first consolidating the non-BJP and non-Congress parties and then look for poaching non-BJP and pro-Congress parties to make his conglomeration of parties strong.
The one party that is on his list is AAP whose president Arvind Kejriwal is finding it a little embarrassing to align with Congress after its leader Sajjan Kumar has been sentenced to life imprisonment for the massacre of Sikhs in 1984 in Delhi, where their population is quite high.
KCR was successful in poaching opposition parties in Telangana but would he be able to repeat the operation at the national level remains to be seen.
It is possible that Naidu might throw a spanner in KCR’s plans and poach non-BJP and non-Congress parties and convert them into non-BJP parties by making them to shake hands with Rahul Gandhi. The race has begun for both of them and time is short for the Lok Sabha elections, whose notification is likely to be issued in February.