Bihar chief Minister Nitish Kumar has taken the initiative to launch a “federal front” of 14 regional parties to fight the Congress and the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections and has begun talks with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and JD(S) head and former PM H D Deve Gowda.
A meeting of top leaders of these 14 parties has been convened in Delhi on February 5 to discuss “a united stand” against the Congress-led UPA government, especially against any populist moves it may announce to woo voters during the Parliament session called to pass the vote on account.
This meeting is to be followed by another of Kumar, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav, Mulayam and Gowda in Delhi either on February 9 or 10 to discuss the formal shape of the yet to be named front.
“Fourteen regional parties have already met once on October 28 last year. The Congress, which has hit a low because of the economic mess and corruption charges, is not able to counter Narendra Modi. It is on us to take on both the BJP and the Congress,” JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson K C Tyagi told The Indian Express.
The Samajwadi Party’s national general secretary Ramgopal Yadav said his party is in talks with like-minded secular parties, including JD(U) to stitch a non-Congress and non-BJP alliance for the Lok Sabha elections. “I cannot commit on how much time it will take to formalise this alliance. But it is a well known fact that we are in serious dialogue and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar is part of it,” Ramgopal Yadav told The Indian Express.
“In fact the seeds had germinated when 14 parties, which included Nitish Kumar, Left parties and others met at Talkatora stadium in New Delhi in October last year. There, we had broadly agreed to form a non-Congress, non-BJP front,” he said, adding that the key players were talking to each other since.
“It will take shape but I still cannot comment on a final date. At times Nitishji also talks directly with Netaji (Mulayam),” he said.
Ramgopal also reminded that the SP had formed a front called Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha, which included the CPI, CPM, JD(U) and JD(S), and contested Assembly polls in Rajasthan last year.
“Left parties have taken the initiative to cobble together a block of parties. I am not sure of calling it a third or fourth front but we support the idea of such a block of parties coming up,” Kumar told reporters on the sidelines of a function. He said several parties which were part of the original Janata Dal have been talking to each other. “We are talking of federating, not merger. One may call it an understanding between parties in pre-poll situation to oppose the Congress and BJP,” Kumar said.
The JD(U)’s Tyagi said the scheduled meeting of the 14 parties before the Parliament session had been called to take an “ideological stand” against the Congress as well. “We apprehend that the Congress will announce some populist measures in the name of seeing through the vote on account. Although we may not oppose the vote on account, we are likely to thwart any populist move by the beleaguered Congress,” Tyagi said.
He said that he had been asked to work with Ramgopal Yadav and CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri to bring together as many parties as possible that are interested in keeping distance from the Congress and the BJP. Tyagi also hinted at the possibility of a pre-poll alliance between the JD (U), CPI and CPM in Bihar.
Although Nitish Kumar has been dismissive of opinion polls, leaders of regional parties were taking heart from the fact that these surveys predict regional parties will get close to 40 per cent of the vote share. “If we get together and even campaign for each other, there are all chances of regional parties getting over 140 seats – a good enough number to stop the BJP from coming to power,” Tyagi said, adding that the JD(U) also hopes to get the backing of the BJD, AIADMK and TMC. Ramgopal, however, categorically ruled out the possibility of Rashtriya Janata Dal president Lalu Yadav being a part of the front. “Lalu Yadav was not with us earlier also and he is not with us even today,” he said.