New Delhi: Regional parties made fresh attempts on Monday to claim the leadership space in the opposition by projecting themselves as a viable non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) non-Congress alternative.
Telangana chief minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao met Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday evening to discuss a possible federal non-BJP non-Congress front ahead of the general election next year.
“We are trying to bring in a real third front for this country. This will be a group of like-minded leaders. Today is just the beginning. Rest of the things will get clear when other leaders will sit together, discuss and come to a consensus," Rao, also the chief of the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, told reporters after the meeting in Kolkata.
Banerjee described the initiative as an attempt to form a “people’s front" and added that strong states will help build a stronger centre.
Earlier this month, Rao gave the first indication of such a front by saying that he was ready to be a part of a third front if required and added that like-minded parties were being approached to join.
The exclusion of the Congress from the opposition front comes at a time when the party is attempting to stitch together an opposition front against the BJP.
Former party president Sonia Gandhi held a meeting of 19 opposition parties last week. The party’s crucial political resolution released during its plenary session on Saturday called for a “common workable program" with like-minded parties ahead of the 2019 polls.
“On the one hand, the BJP is consolidating itself under a strong leadership whereas the erstwhile dominant Congress party has been weakening electorally. In this context, the regional parties want to find a space for themselves. The idea has been conceived but it will be challenging as to how far it succeeds," said E. Venkatesu, associate political science professor at the University of Hyderabad.
“As far as Congress is concerned, the regional parties follow or rally around it only if it has electoral outcomes to show, and if it has its own political strength. As of now, the Congress has been unable to do it," added Venkatesu, who is also a coordinator for Lokniti, part of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.
Interestingly, the reach-out between the two chief ministers comes at a time when two other regional parties—the YSR Congress Party and the Telugu Desam Party—are trying to corner the Union government with a no-confidence motion.
While Union parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said on Monday that the National Democratic Alliance government was ready to face the no-confidence motion, the motion could not be taken up for consideration owing to continued disruption in the Parliament for the 11th consecutive working day of the second half of the budget session. The no-confidence motion could come up for discussion again on Tuesday.
Arkamoy Dutta Majumdar in Kolkata contributed to this story.