[dropcap]U[/dropcap]nless K Chandrashekhar Rao is playing the BJP’s game, as his critics suspect, his attempts to put together a non-Congress, non-BJP alliance do not make sense. If the real objective of the Telangana chief minister is to oust the BJP, he simply cannot afford to brush aside the claims of the Congress to be a part of the proposed federal front.
He may be an opponent of the Congress. But, in order to pursue his anti-BJP agenda, he will have to take on board all those with whom he may have or may have had serious political differences. It will be known to be a temporary, even opportunistic, alliance to achieve a specific goal. But it is unavoidable in the world of realpolitik. Otherwise, the proposed venture will flounder.
Besides, Rao has to be aware of his own limitations. Notwithstanding his resounding victory in the recent Assembly elections, he is still not in a position to claim the stature of a major national leader. For all practical purposes, he remains a regional leader of a small state. For him, to try to be the pivot of an all-India alliance is unrealistic.
And, what is more, his latest attempts, which run parallel to the other endeavours that are being made to cobble together the so-called anti-BJP ‘mahagathbandhan’ (grand alliance), can give rise to unfavourable interpretations of his motive. After all, the formation of two ‘gathbandhans’ can only help the BJP.
And, what is more, it will be fatuous to ignore the Congress at a time when its successes in Karnataka, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh have shown that the party is not quite as dead as it was presumed to be after its humiliating drubbing in 2014.
There may be questions about whether Rahul Gandhi should be projected as the grand alliance’s prime ministerial face, as DMK president MK Stalin wants to do. But insistence on keeping the Congress out of an anti-BJP front is devoid of political sense.
The basis of Rao’s objections is understandable. He can hardly be expected to hobnob with either the Congress, or the Telugu Desam so soon after fighting both of them in the Assembly elections. Yet, his eagerness to play a national role after handing over the responsibility of running Telangana to his son is making the chief minister take a step which has little chances of success.
His best option is to remain confined to his state for the time being and consolidate his party’s position. Touring the country in a chartered plane with his family in search of support for his federal front is a waste of time and money. It can only create confusion in the ranks of the national Opposition without enabling Rao to fulfil his dream.
In fact, such futile endeavours will make it all the more difficult for him to have any truck with a grand alliance if, and when, it is formed, for his image as a spoiler will remain. What Rao will have to remember is that the country is, at present, in a condition similar to the one which prevailed in 1977 when there was a stark division between authoritarianism on one side and the defenders of democracy on the other.
As at that time, the forthcoming General Elections are expected to decide the shape of the nation’s future. Given the mutually exclusive nature of the two sides, there is hardly any middle ground. One has to be either with the Right, who are now the wielders of power, or with the Left-Liberals, who can be said to be waging the battle of their lives.
As of now, no one can say which side has an edge, but the ideological contours are clear and are likely to remain so in the foreseeable future. Although there are a few fence-sitters, such as Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, once an ally of the BJP, who may be waiting to see which side will emerge on top. Theirs is not an enviable position, for it is suggestive of politicalexpediency. Therefore, it is not surprising at all that Rao called on him first before flying to Kolkata to meet Mamata Banerjee.
But, whatever his hosts in various state capitals Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata, Lucknow and, finally, Delhi tell him, Rao will have to make up his own mind. Since the focus of virtually his entire political career was on securing his demand for Telangana, he may not have had much time in examining the secular-communal divide that has grabbed so much attention elsewhere, notably in northern and western India.
Moreover, the South has been relatively free of the communal virus as the absence of the rampaging gau rakshaks shows. One probable reason is that the BJP is not as strong in the South as in the North and the West. For the regional parties, the Congress has a greater presence. It is this factor which may have coloured Rao’s vision. But, now, he has to develop a wider outlook.
(The author is a senior journalist)