After a tiring election campaign season, Telangana chief minister K. Chandrashekar Rao, or KCR, could be forgiven for taking some time out with his family in Kovalam, the picturesque beach town in Kerala.
However, it wasn’t just family walks and an Ayurvedic massage he was after in the famous getaway spot. It turns out that the advocate of a non-BJP, non-Congress front was also scouting for influential takers for his political pitch.
KCR met Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan while holidaying on Monday evening. The meeting was “highly significant" in the backdrop of their common view that regional parties will play a major role in the formation of the next government at the centre, Vijayan said on Tuesday. A person familiar with the talks, requesting not to be named, put it this way: the southern states are getting ready to play hardball with the whoever is forming the next government.
According to KCR, Vijayan said both major fronts bidding to form the next government, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA)— may not get the simple majority they want. “The regional parties will get a prominent role," Vijayan said, recalling the interaction with KCR
“We did not discuss the prime minister candidate at all," Vijayan said. This could mean the discussion was around KCR’s pet idea of a federal front in which regional parties could either emerge as king makers, or form a government on their own.
The five southern states have a long list of demands. They want the next prime minister to clear funding for roads and infrastructure, authorise new branches of prestigious institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), and raise the ceiling on government debt.
Other goals include cancelling the 15th Finance Commission (FFC) recommendation to use the 2011 census rather than the 1971 one as a criterion for deciding states’ share of revenue from 1 April 2020.
The change will hit the southern states the most as they have implemented population control programmes better than their northern counterparts. States with larger populations get more of the central funds.
“All the states have problems with the centre, not just us," Vijayan said on Tuesday. “A new government coming to the centre will have to follow the federal system and secularism. The state will back anyone who supports the development of the state. Yesterday’s meeting with KCR was highly significant."
KCR has already met other leaders, including Andhra Pradesh opposition leader Jagan Mohan Reddy, and chief ministers H.D. Kumaraswamy of Karnataka, Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal and Naveen Patnaik of Odisha and wants a meeting with Tamil Nadu opposition leader M.K. Stalin.
“KCR was so far maintaining cordial relations with the NDA. But now, the meeting with Vijayan and Stalin will send a different message: that he wants to form a third (federal) front, including the Left, and which might possibly go with the UPA," said Telangana-based political analyst E. Venkatesu.
Sharan Poovanna and Yunus Lasania from Hyderabad contributed to this story.
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