Can 3rd Front really get to choose a PM?

For a variety of reasons to do with the inclination of the principal backers of such governments, these experiments have been shortlived.

While there is much discussion these days on the prospects of the ruling party, the BJP, and its principal opponent, the Congress, in the coming Lok Sabha election, not much analysis has gone into the question of regional parties, some of which aspire to form a united front after the polls with a view to give shape to the next government at the Centre.

In a campaign speech recently, the working president of the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), K.T. Rama Rao, son of chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao, spoke of a regional parties’ combine forming the government at the Centre, and hinted his own party might be at the centre of this process.

That is, of course, a legitimate aspiration. In the past, regional parties have managed to attract the outside support of larger entities and chose one amongst themselves to be Prime Minister, with the indirect go-ahead of the main supporting party. The governments of Chandra Shekhar, H.D. Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral come to mind. Earlier, the rump Congress group led by V.P. Singh was at the centre of the government, with the backing of both the BJP and the Left parties.

For a variety of reasons to do with the inclination of the principal backers of such governments, these experiments have been shortlived. The question, in today’s context, is whether the BJP or the Congress would pass over the chance to lead a government themselves in order to support a so-called “Federal Front”.

That depends on the numbers, of course. If either or both of the two bigger parties in the fray hit a mark around 150 seats in the Lok Sabha, the chances are that they might attract some of the regional parties to endorse their own claim. On the other hand, if neither all-India party is in such a position, the regional forces are expected to press hard to find a PM from within their own ranks, though this process is expected to be anything but smooth.

The TRS leader’s enthusiasm should be tempered by reality. In the first instance, in the post-poll scenario, the Federal Front entities have to demonstrate that they can cohere as a unit. The parties he has named — BSP and SP, Trinamul Congress, BJD, YSR Congress and of course TRS — are important in their regions and have to play a key role in a hung Parliament scenario, the most likely election outcome. But it should come as no surprise if these parties choose one side or the other among the two bigger parties in the fray — all depending on the latter’s numbers, of course.

In the event that a PM from a regional party becomes inevitable, the competition from amongst them is likely to be intense — and this has the potential to affect Federal Front chemistry.

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