Even as the momentum for a federal front picks up
The Modi factor is beginning to unravel at the national level with several regional parties stepping up their efforts to cobble together a federal front ahead of the 2014 general election in the hope of emerging as a key player in the formation of the next government.
The momentum for the so-called federal front has picked up after the Janata Dal (United), a constituent of the NDA, openly expressed its unease over the rise of Mr. Modi in the BJP hierarchy.
Chief Ministers of Odisha and West Bengal, Naveen Patnaik and Mamta Banerjee, have established contact with their Bihar counterpart Nitish Kumar, whose party is expected to meet in the next few days to take a call on its continued association with the NDA.
For the first time since the elevation of Mr. Modi as the BJP election campaign panel chief, which was followed by a failed attempt by senior party leader L.K. Advani to halt the Modi juggernaut, Mr. Kumar publicly acknowledged in Patna that his party was “concerned” about recent developments in the coalition and would take a call on them after discussing the matter within the party. He told journalists that it would be “good” if regional partiessuch as the JD (U), Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal formed a common front.
On his telephone conversation with Mr. Advani on Wednesday, Mr. Kumar said: “L.K. Advani discussed some issues and said some things. We will discuss them in our meeting. We will take cognisance of these things...We will discuss all issues,” he told reporters in Patna. “Before that it is not proper for me to say anything. But we are concerned about the developments which have taken place in the last few days.”
Asked about reports that the JD (U) favoured the formation of a non-Congress, non-BJP federal front, he said: “Mamata Banerjee had talked to me over phone and her view is that Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand have some common problems and we should think about them together. I have also said that these problems are common.”
Asked whether the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) would be a part of such a front, he said: “A hundred per cent. We are part of a federal front. Federal front is a reality. Congress has lost its mandate and it is becoming weaker day by day while NDA is not picking up. Regional parties are very strong. I am confident that regional parties will form a third front.”
BJP president Rajnath Singh called up Mr. Kumar on Thursday morning while senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi talked to him on Wednesday night.
The former BJP president, Nitin Gadkari, who is considered close to the RSS, went over to the residence of JD (U) president Sharad Yadav on Thursday in a bid to prevail upon him to not act in haste on his party’s affiliation with the NDA. “NDA exists right now and we are taking efforts that how the situation that has taken a bad shape can be rectified,” said Mr. Sharad Yadav, who is also the convener of the NDA.
Asked whether Mr. Advani’s position had weakened in the BJP, Mr. Yadav said: “His position has not weakened for us. We have the same respect for him, which was there before.”
In private, however, senior BJP leaders are maintaining that the party is reconciled to the prospect of parting ways with the JD (U), but would continue to make efforts to retain the party in the NDA fold as it does not want to be seen as the party responsible for breaking up the alliance.
“NDA exists right now and we are taking efforts that how the situation that has taken a bad shape can be rectified,” JD (U) president, who is the convener of the NDA, told reporters after the meeting.
Meanwhile, at Shirdi the RJD president Lalu Prasad has said a ‘third front’ would not succeed because all its potential members harbour the ambition to become the Prime Minister.