Why KCR’s Federal Front would have worked? Mamata Banerjee, AAP, Akhilesh Yadav pinpricks to INDI Alliance

Mamata Banerjee, the boss of the formidable All India Trinamul Congress (TMC), has pulled the plug, fretting and fuming on the top leadership of the Congress

Why KCR’s Federal Front would have worked? Mamata Banerjee, AAP, Akhilesh Yadav pinpricks to INDI Alliance

HYDERABAD: Mamata Banerjee, the boss of the formidable All India Trinamul Congress (TMC), has pulled the plug, fretting and fuming on the top leadership of the Congress.

She asserted on Wednesday:

"I have no relations with the Congress... we will fight alone in Bengal (and) will decide on an all-India level after the election," the Chief Minister said, a day after Rahul Gandhi's Bharat Jodo Nay Yatra became another sore point between the parties. "They (Mr Gandhi and the Congress yatra) are coming to my state... they did not have the courtesy to inform me..."

The grandiose umbrella organisation with 28 political parties was stitched by the Congress on July 18, 2023 and put up show of unity. They all pledged their support to the INDI alliance —

Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance (I.N.D.I.A).

Ditto with Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav who could not have his say in seat sharing in Madhya Pradesh elections while the Congress had its way. Angered by the snub, Yadav refused to attend the INDIA bloc meeting slated for December 6, 2023.

Soon after Mamata’s outburst on the Congress, the Aam Admi Party gave a shock to the Congress, with Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Singh Mann asserting: "The Aam Aadmi Party has shortlisted 40 candidates for the 13 Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. We are getting a survey done before finalising candidates." He said the Congress had no presence in the State.

Mamata Banerjee said her party wasn’t even informed about the meet. Bihar Chief Minister and Janata Dal (United) leader Nitish Kumar and DMK president and Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu also declined to attend.

Even Aam Admi party insisted that the Congress should not tread on its toes in Delhi and Punjab which led to a face-off between the two parties.

The INDIA block has apparently fizzled out even before it filled fizz into it.

With the evil design of the Congress getting exposed before they collectively fought the Narendra Modi-led BJP and its National Democratic Alliance (NDA), all major partners have almost slipped out of the coalition.

Perceiving this situation well in advance, then Telangana Chief Minster K Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) had mooted the idea of forming a non-Congress, non-BJP Federal Front as a national alternative. As part of his mission, he had consistently persuaded almost all leaders of non-Congress, non-BJP parties to come together without arrogating the position of leadership of the alliance to himself.

He met DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and his son M K Stalin (now the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu) way back in April 2018 itself. He continued his exercise by meeting Mamata Banerjee, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav and his son Tejaswi Yadav, Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemanth Soren, Akhilesh Yadav and Shivsena chief and then Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray. He had sent his son and working president of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (now Bharat Rashtra Samithi) K T Rama Rao to YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy (now Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh) to come together under one umbrella.

However, nobody came forth to forge the alliance while some of them were not averse to the idea.

But KCR’s constant persuasion didn’t bear fruit as all the regional satraps wanted to pursue their own agenda and all of them had felt that they could not keep the front glued together. They all were under the impression that the Congress would be able to play the role of the pivot to keep the flock together.

However, KCR foresaw the evil design of the Congress even before anything could take shape.

KCR had a reason to realise that Congress would queer the pitch for any alliance owing to the past experiences.

His firsthand experience was how the Congress had betrayed him and defused his plan to merge the TRS into the Congress which he had offered for long if Telangana was separated as a state.

Soon after the announcement of the formation of a separate Telangana, KCR had gone with his entire family and made a courtesy call on then Congress president Sonia Gandhi. She had hosted lunch to KCR’s family. When KCR had broached the topic of the merger and the way forward on the modalities, Sonia Gandhi wanted him to meet then AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh.

Behind the scenes, the Congress had launched parleys with Telangana Joint Action Committee president Prof M Kodanda Ram.

The two incidents indeed rubbed KCR on the wrong and he had decided to believe in his own strength and go it alone. Soon, he had announced that the proposal of merging the TRS with the Congress was dropped.

Understanding the strengths and knowledge of KCR, the BJP which was on a “friendly terms” with him began turning hostile to him. The chasm between KCR and the BJP widened so much that the political rivalry between them reached a point of no return.

But for his attempts to bring all the non-Congress and non-BJP parties together, the BJP would not have nursed a grievance against him.

For, KCR is one courageous politician who makes no bones about his religion and wears it in his shoulder. This was one important reason why the BJP used to see him more as a friend than foe politically. At the same time, KCR had always been pally with the All-India Majlis-e-Ittehaadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) and he had demonstrated his love for Muslim minorities by introducing numerous programmes for their benefit.

Citing KCR’s ‘minority appeasement’ as the ploy, the BJP bandied the plausible Federal Front as an exercise in futility and it had gained currency over the efforts of KCR to stitch a coalition.

This led KCR to float his own national outfit which came up with a proper agenda and ideas, spelling out the framework as to how and why it would be different from the Congress and the BJP policies. Interestingly, he had asserted that it wasn’t meant to demean anybody. But that did not cut much ice with the domains he had operated on.

The crucial point KCR had missed was that with just 9 Lok Sabha members out of a meagre 17 seats in Lok Sabha, how much he could keep the flock together and run national politics, a la the late NTR’s National Front of 1989 or Chandrababu Naidu’s United Front.

But surely had all the regional satraps come together to toe the line of KCR’s initiative, the Federal Front would have grown to become stronger with non-aligned parties like the YSR Congress, Biju Janata Dal, Aam Aadmi Party and Shivsena and Communists.

Now it’s a lost opportunity for all of them, with the BJP-led NDA comfortably poised to romp home with a thumping majority at the Centre.

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