From behind the scene
Amid high-voltage canvassing by the opposition, BJP is gradually making its plan clear. On Monday, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami met Modi in New Delhi, after more than one year since they met last in August 2017. AIADMK has 37 seats out of total 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu and is the third largest party after BJP and Congress in the Lok Sabha. The Monday meeting between Modi and Palaniswami has triggered fresh speculations of an understanding between the two leaders. It seems Modi has taken it upon himself to see that his party makes up the losses in states where it fears to do badly by winning new friends and allies.
For quite some time, opposition parties have been making efforts to arrive at a formula that ensures the defeat of BJP in the next Lok Sabha elections mid-next year. As part of their endeavour, arch rivals like Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party joined hands in the recent by-polls in Uttar Pradesh and the results rung alarm bells for BJP. Soon, it was clear that if the two old rivals continue with their understanding, BJP could lose many Lok Sabha seats in UP. The idea caught the attention of other opposition parties and they too began exploring the possibility of stitching similar alliances. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was particularly active on this front and she held talks with a number of opposition leaders during her recent visits to New Delhi. The talks could not lead to a pre-poll alliance among major opposition parties but it did give BJP an idea what the opposition was up to.
The graffiti was clear: The states that contributed majorly to BJP's tally of seats in the last Lok Sabha election are unlikely to show the same benevolence to the party in the upcoming polls. The idea of a grand alliance of opposition parties that seemed so much possible when the talks began eventually fell apart as opposition leaders cited complex political equations in their home states. There were other problems as well such as uncertainty over who will head the grand alliance if it is formed. The question of ticket distribution and common minimum agenda also put paid to their efforts. The basic idea that emerged from Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav's experiment in UP was that if the opposition parties field a common candidate and avoid division of votes, they can defeat BJP candidates. So, the opposition parties were trying to figure out a formula that can help them unite and also ensure that they field single opposition candidates against BJP on as many seats as possible. But though the idea was very exciting, it entailed a great deal of hard work and persuasion for which no opposition leader was ready. The emphatic victory of BJP in the Assembly elections in North-East early this year had the opposition worrying about the victory march of the saffron party. Many of the regional leaders feared that the BJP wave seen in Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, and North-East states could continue and claim new territories.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao (KCR) was the first to call out other opposition parties for a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front and offered himself to lead the front. KCR's idea of taking on BJP was unique in the sense that he did not feel the need to take Congress along. The only explanation for excluding Congress from a proposed front of regional parties is that KCR's Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) faces a potential challenge from the grand old party as far as state politics is concerned. KCR received the support of Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati among others. But as the reality dawned on KCR and he realised that his grip on the voters is slipping because of a host of issues including the agrarian crisis that saw about 3,500 farmers committing suicide since he came to power in the newly carved out state in 2014 and non-fulfilment of promises made during the election campaign, he jettisoned the idea of federal front and had couple of meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. This led to speculations that TRS is eyeing an alliance with BJP. Now, it is believed that KCR has entered into an understanding with Modi and as part of the understanding TRS will be open to a post-poll alliance with the saffron party if it fails to win a majority in the Assembly elections. In order to ensure that the party does face similar outcome from the Assembly and the Lok Sabha elections, KCR even dissolved the Assembly and called for fresh election so that he could have some time before the Lok Sabha elections to chalk out his strategies afresh and in the light of Assembly election results. As per the understanding between KCR and Modi, TRS can support the NDA government at the Centre led by BJP if it falls short of the required number to form the next government after the Lok Sabha elections.