The federal front is shaping up with less than a year to go for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. However, the coalition of anti-BJP political parties is likely to face problems garnering support across the board
Opposition leaders are set to attend HD Kumaraswamy’s swearing-in as the Karnataka chief minister at the Vidhana Soudha, in Bengaluru on Wednesday.
Besides Congress president Rahul Gandhi, chief ministers of various states and leaders of major opposition parties across the country will be attending the ceremony.
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, former Uttar Pradesh CMs Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati, Andhra Pradesh’s N Chandrababu Naidu, Pinarayi Vijayan from Kerala, are some of the political leaders attending Wednesday’s ceremony.
The show-of-strength is being seen as more than a mere photo opportunity. Observers feel the function will act has laying of foundation for a united opposition front for the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
While calls for such an alliance have been made in the past, the movement only gathered steam after rivals Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) came together to beat the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in two Lok Sabha bypolls in Uttar Pradesh.
Soon after the triumph of the two parties in UP, Mamata and Telugu Rashtriya Samiti’s K Chandrashekar Rao initiated a dialogue on a ‘federal front’.
The front has so far been described as an alliance of non-Congress parties, to take on prime minister Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government.
Here’s how the front could stack-up across different states:
Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) is likely to be a key member of the federal front in Maharashtra and Gujarat.
BJP ally Shiv Sena, which has decided to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha polls on its own. Over the past few years, the Sena has constantly spoken out against the BJP. It makes Shiv Sena a potential ally. However, the Uddhav Thackeray-led party has maintained distance from any talks so far.
Shiv Sena, which won 18 seats in 2014 general polls, could severely damage BJP’s vote share in the state.
North and central India
While Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal is expected to attend the ceremony today, it remains unclear if the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) would join the front. AAP is currently in power in Delhi and has significant presence in Punjab.
The Jammu & Kashmir National Conference (NC) led by Farooq Abdullah could be a potential ally from India’s northern-most state. Similarly, in Haryana, Om Prakash Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal could be an ally. It is currently the largest opposition party in the Haryana Assembly, ahead of the Congress.
While the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) could be a natural component of the federal front, the single largest party in Bihar’s Assembly has not given a clear go-ahead for the coalition.
In March, (RJD) supremo Lalu Prasad Yadav said that “there can be no Third Front without the Congress” according to a report. Congress and the RDJ are tied together as party of a ‘Grand Alliance’ in Bihar.
Uttar Pradesh is crucial for any political party or coalition which wishes to stake claim at the Centre as the state has 80 Lok Sabha seats.
With a SP-BSP alliance in the state, the federal could be hopeful of denting the BJP here. In 2014 general election, the saffron party had swept the north Indian state, winning 71 out of the 80 seats in the state.
Following the success of their experiment in Phulpur and Gorakhpur bypolls, the two rivals publically declared that have clearly their intention to fight together in 2019.
In the upcoming bypoll in Kairana, the two parties are supporting Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD).
BJP has been looking to make inroads in to southern Indian states. So far, Karnataka has been the only state where the party has managed to form a government. Thus, the BJP would be banking on forming alliances in this region.
The federal front has found an ally in the JD(S) in Karnataka. However, the HD Deve Gowda-led party is now in an alliance with the Congress.
Kerala remains a state where the Left parties continue to enjoy significant support.
TRS’s leader and Telangana CM K Chandrashekar Rao was one of the initial leaders to speak in favour of the front.
Over the last four months, N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) has also walked out of the NDA. Both these parties are thus natural contenders to join the anti-BJP alliance.
YS Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party is also a contender from Andhra Pradesh. However, according to a report, the party may be ready to join hands with BJP if PM Modi grants special category status to the state.
Death of chief minister J Jayalalithaa in late 2016, created a political void in the Tamil Nadu. Since then, MK Stalin has been hoping for change in fortunes for the DMK, in the state since.
Actors Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth have also taken a plunge into politics. However, it remains to be seen how much effect their entry would have on the existing heavyweights.
Retorting to BJP national president Amit Shah’s remark that the ‘golden era’ for the party would begin only after it emerges victorious in West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee raised a ‘Target Lal Qila’ battle cry.
“Some are saying that their next target is Bangla (West Bengal). If that is the case, our target will be Delhi’s Lal Qila. So, let’s march to Delhi,” the TMC chief had said at a public rally, according to a report.
Out of the 42 Lok Sabha seat in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress had bagged 34. The party repeated its performance in the assembly poll in 2016.
In Odisha, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal (BJD) had clinched 20 out of the 21 Lok Sabha seats in 2014. However, the assembly polls in the state will happen simultaneous to the general election next year in which, Patnaik could be facing a strong anti-incumbency factor. However, the BJD could be a natural ally for the federal front.
It could be difficult for the federal front to find a coalition partners in the region. The Left parties remain powerful in the state of Tripura. However, the BJP has been on a rapid upswing in the north eastern states. In March, BJP formed governments in Tripura, Meghalaya and Nagaland, leaving only Mizoram as a Congress-ruled state there.
In Assam, the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) is a key ally for the BJP. However, the two parties have been bickering over multiple issues including the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (2016) and this year’s panchayat polls, according to reports. However, it remains to be seen if the AGP walks out of the alliance.
Left parties are strong contenders in Kerala and Tripura and continue garner support in West Bengal. However, it remains unlikely that the Left would join a Mamata Banerjee-led front.
The anti-BJP front would also find it difficult to find allies in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Goa where Congress is the principle opposition party.