Naidu begins well, but hurdles ahead

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]fter a fairly successful round of talks in Bengaluru, TDP leader Chandrababu Naidu, the self-proclaimed facilitator of a national front against BJP, has made Chennai his next stop, where he can be considered to have taken his mission to a step further. While his talks in the neighbouring capital drummed up support from former prime minister Deve Gowda and his chief minister son, the Chennai talks involved the man who has inherited the legacy of M Karunanidhi, the key architect of Gowda’s third front government. As successor to the DMK patriarch, son M K Stalin is believed to be keen to cut out a national role for himself and Naidu’s initiative is highly complementary for such a strategy. DMK, which had played key roles in propping up the Gowda and IK Gujral ministries in the 1990s, now stands virtually eliminated from the national scene.

The Chennai talks have succeeded to provide an ideological plank to the southern confabulations aimed at preventing the ‘undemocratic, autocratic and anti-federal’ BJP from coming back to power. Stalin has suggested that the effort be predicated on a common minimum programme to be agreed upon by all potential collaborators so that it passes the test as a grouping united on certain principles rather than the need to keep BJP out, although that continues to be a major thrust. Obviously, Stalin conjures up the image of a national king-maker for himself and his party and Naidu’s initiative has come handy.

A major hurdle in the way of creating a united national alternative to BJP has been the personal ego of some of the regional satraps, particularly beyond the South. The likes of BSP supremo Mayawati and Bengal’s Mamata have ambitions that go much beyond their state boundaries. In fact, the spirit of national Opposition unity that was kindled in Bengaluru in the wake of leaders congregating there for the swearing in of the Kumaraswamy ministry could not be sustained for long as the prime ministerial ambitions of the leaders ran counter to the requirements of unity. Things went to the extent of parties declaring that there won’t be any national Opposition front before the elections.

So, Naidu’s efforts have to be seen in this context. By declaring that he won’t be the face of Opposition unity but will only be a facilitator, he has reduced the number of claimants at least by one. He has upheld the idea that Congress can be the pivot around which national unity can be built as it is the biggest party with the largest spread in terms of presence and influence. But as he goes along, problems could prop up, especially when he has to work with irreconcilable interests and ambitions of some leaders. But for a start, he has some impressive results to show.

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