With the next Central government to be decided within a matter of a few days, the Congress has reached out to regional parties, including the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) in Telangana and the YSRCP in Andhra Pradesh, to discuss the possibility of stitching up a post-poll alliance.
Sources in the Congress said that they reached out for informal talks with Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao and YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy. However, both are said to have remained non-committal and have asked the Congress leaders to wait for the results.
Both the TRS and the YSRCP have been maintaining an equal distance from the Congress and the BJP, but have generally been considered closer to the latter. This is because the Congress is KCR's main opposition in Telangana, and Jagan has had a bitter relationship with the party for over a decade, following his father and former AP Chief Minister Y S Rajasekhar Reddy's death.
KCR is presently making efforts to forge a Federal Front; a consortium of non-Congress and non-BJP regional parties to prioritise the issues of states and demand decentralisation of power. Just last week, KCR met Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and also spoke to Karnataka CM HD Kumaraswamy regarding the issue over the phone. Jagan, on the other hand, is keeping his cards close to his chest and has said that he will support anyone who grants Special Category Status (SCS) to Andhra Pradesh.
Is KCR leaning towards Congress?
It was during his Kerala visit that speculation began that KCR may lean towards the Congress in case a single party fails to get a majority at the Centre. Media reports suggested that the JD(S), which is currently in an alliance with the Congress in Karnataka, had offered to mediate talks between the TRS and the Congress leadership in Delhi.
This development came even as senior TRS leader and deputy leader in the Lok Sabha B Vinod Kumar suggested that the Federal Front may form the government with the support of the Congress from outside, like the United Front government in 1996.
"United Front experiment was...Congress supporting from outside. This time also there is every likelihood of such a proposition. No doubt," Vinod told PTI.
However, a day later, he changed his statement and said that there was no question of taking sides as neither the Congress nor the BJP would be close to the tally of all regional parties at the national level. He added that it was the consortium of regional parties which would dictate the terms.
While the Congress is assured of getting the support of its allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), including the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and the DMK, it would need more to have a shot at power if the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fails to get a clear majority.
Apart from the outcome in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, post-poll equations will also be shaped by the performance of Trinamool Congress in West Bengal and the Samajwadi Party-Bahujan Samaj Party-Rashtriya Lok Dal alliance in Uttar Pradesh.
Meanwhile, Andhra Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu has dismissed KCR’s efforts, telling mediapersons in New Delhi that an anti-BJP alliance without the support of the Congress was not possible. Naidu has been making his own efforts to rope in regional leaders for an anti-BJP Front.
This also puts Jagan in a tricky situation, as his rival has already aligned with the Congress at the national level. This makes it challenging if the YSRCP wishes to do the same, even if it was lured by the Congress' promise of granting special status to Andhra.
Congress leaders continue to be optimistic and hope that if their party wins close to 150 seats on May 23, they may be able to convince regional parties to hop on board.
"If we get 150 seats, we will definitely form the government. Nobody can stop us. There will be many parties willing to joins hands," a Congress leader told IANS.
With IANS inputs