OPPOSITION parties are glued to the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Goa and Manipur. Along with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the opposition also knows that 2022 will set the tone for 2024 when India elects a new Lok Sabha.
While most of the electoral action in 2022 is in North India, leaders from the southern part of the country, too, are keenly watching the proceeding and getting ready with their strategies to counter the BJP juggernaut.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao’s recent meetings with Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejahswi Yadav, Left parties and his Tamil Nadu counterpart MK Stalin are strong indications of the churning.
The spate of meetings indicate that a Federal Front could be quietly shaping up at KCR office in Hyderabad to take on the well-oiled BJP election machinery.
RJD Leader Tejashwi Yadav’s Meeting With KCR
RJD’s Tejashwi Yadav, the leader of the principal opposition party in Bihar, came to KCR’s official residence Pragathi Bhavan with former Bihar minister Abdul Baari Siddiqui, and former lawmakers Sunil Singh and Bhola Yadav to discuss an anti-BJP front.
Sources say the purpose of the meeting was to develop mutual trust and respect among leaders of regional parties who hope to join forces against the BJP.
The theory is, if the BJP is ousted from power in Uttar Pradesh, it will weaken the party and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the national level and thus provide a possibility of defeating the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Also present at the meeting were KCR’s son KT Rama Rao, the Telangana municipal administration and IT Minister, and his nephew Joginapally Santosh, a Rajya Sabha MP.
While TRS leaders claim that nothing much should be read into the Tejashwi Yadav-KCR meeting, they also confess that a clear picture would emerge post the assembly election results in the five states.
KCR-Left Leaders Meeting
This meeting sparked speculation about the formation of a possible Third Front and the Telangana CM’s seeking a pivotal role in such a formation for the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.
KCR held separate meetings with senior leaders of the CPI(M) and CPI to discuss cooperation against the Centre’s PSU disinvestment plan and other policies.
The CPI(M) delegation included its General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, former Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar and others. CPI General Secretary D Raja, Rajya Sabha member Binoy Viswam and Telangana state secretary Chada Venkat Reddy and other party leaders comprised the second group that met KCR.
KCR and MK Stalin Meeting
During his Chennai visit, KCR had met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin on December 14, 2021.
KCR reportedly spoke about a possible Federal Front to take on the BJP government for what he calls are its anti-farmers and anti-people policies.
In 2018, too, KCR had met Stalin for a luncheon meeting at the latter’s residence in Chennai before the 2019 elections. The duo also had a telephonic conversation with Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee.
During that period KCR was making a strong effort to forge an anti-BJP, anti-Congress front before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. He crisscrossed the country in a chartered flight and met several opposition leaders to fulfill his dream.
But the plan never took off as the Modi wave once again swept across India in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and the BJP-led NDA won a second consecutive mandate with a massive margin.
KCR, Once Modi’s Close Friend
TRS’s aggressive stance was evident on various occasions and after 2019 the equations with the BJP changed drastically. The primary reason for the widening rift was BJP’s growing stature in Telangana and KCR being neglected by PM Modi.
All was not well became evident in February 2021 when KCR came to Delhi but skipped the sixth Niti Aayog Governing Council meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Towards the end of 2021, the alarm bells rang again for KCR & TRS, following the party’s defeat in the Huzurabad by-election as BJP pocketed the seat.
It was time again for KCR to explore the option of an anti-BJP front once again.
TRS parliamentary party leader K Kesava Rao’s presence at the meeting of 16 opposition parties in Congress’ Lok Sabha MP Mallikarjun Kharge office for condemning the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha members during Parliament Winter Session was the latest show of displeasure by the party towards the Modi government.
TRS will up the ante against the BJP-led Central government by chalking out a year-long agitation programme in 2022. The party plans to target BJP by protests and demonstrations on select issues every month.
One of the issues which the TRS has been trying to exploit is about paddy procurement which also allows it to tap into the perceived anti-farmers stance of the Modi government.
TRS leadership also plans to protest against Centre’s alleged discrimination against Telangana in the release of funds, and outstanding problems regarding the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act among others.
Sources say KCR would lead a few of these protests. Interestingly, KCR sat on a dharna at Indira Park in November 2021 over the paddy issue – the first time since he became the Chief Minister of the state in 2014.
Viability & Challenges
In political discourse, the general impression is that there is no real opposition face that voters can look up to.
If a large number of regional parties join an alliance, it will be extremely difficult to ensure smooth functioning of the group as each one will pull in a different direction. The fate of such alliances in the past do no inprise too much confidence among the voters.
Hence the big question on the utility and functionality of a so-called Third Front or Federal Front remains.
It now definitely seems that KCR has set a larger agenda and has made his intentions loud and clear. Till now KCR has been seen as a leader whose attitude is questionable and intentions under doubt. It’s often alleged that there are many flaws in KCR’s fight against BJP and he still has a soft corner for the party.
But the flurry of activities at Pragathi Bhavan indicates that KCR is much more focused in his efforts to bring all political forces opposed to the BJP under one umbrella.
Questions also remain over KCR’s reliability as the fulcrum of a strong anti-BJP front. Moreover, such a platform will also need to bring Mamata Banerjee’s TMC and Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party on board.
Both these leaders have never shied away from making their national ambitions clear and the position of leadership will certainly be a hotly contested one.
Congress, with its shrinking but still pan-India presence, is yet to send out a signal that it is receptive to such an idea and the viability of any opposition minus it remains a dream.