The formation of the so-called Federal Front — the constitution of the government at the Centre by a clutch of regional parties, as was the case in 1996 when such a disparate coalition informally went under the name of Third Front — has been pushed with unseemly haste by Telangana chief minister and TRS chief K. Chandrasekhar Rao right in the middle of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.
Reportedly, when Mr Rao called on DMK chief M.K. Stalin in Chennai last Monday, with the idea of taking discussions forward on regional parties being the nucleus of the government at the Centre, the DMK supremo thought it expedient to tell him that taking up the idea at the present juncture risked weakening the anti-BJP effort overall.
Taking up the idea strenuously while voting is going on evidently plays into the BJP's hands. It permits the BJP to canvass the notion that not voting Prime Minister Narendra Modi back to power can only yield a weak, shaky coalition of minor regional players.
From what has transpired so far, the DMK’s priority seems to be to see the back of the Narendra Modi government. The TRS leader, on the other hand, appears not to be swayed by the same objective. To him, the BJP and the Congress are the same if viewed through an ideology-neutral lens. Mr Rao seems to be looking at power for its own sake. His object is to secure a non-BJP, non-Congress government at the Centre in which regional leaders like himself get to play an outsized role.
The idea of the so-called Federal Front has been in the air from before the voting process kicked off in early April. But it can hardly be given practical shape until the final tally is known for the two national parties and for regional players.
It is doubtless true that the regional aspirants can get a chance to form the
government at the Centre only if the BJP and the Congress both fall below a certain threshold in terms of their parliamentary numbers. The practical feasibility of the proposition can only be established on May 23, the day of the results.
There is another conceivable way — if the BJP dips below its own expectations while the Congress performs better but not so well that it may be able to suck in so-called “secular” allies towards itself.
All this is too hypothetical and in that sense quite meaningless, except as a nebulous idea. The trouble with the Federal Front is that certain parties have committed themselves to the BJP (Shiv Sena, Akali Dal, JD-U) and the Congress (DMK, RJD).
Mr Stalin, in fact, made his association on the Congress side plain to Mr Rao and urged him to join the team. Perhaps the DMK will see the picture differently only if its ally, the Congress, does extremely poorly and is completely out of the reckoning....