Federal Front comes together to hail Congress-JD(S) victory in Karnataka
Analysts caution that the power balance between the Congress and non-Congress parties in each state will need to be negotiated carefully to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.Karnataka Elections 2018 Updated: May 20, 2018 06:53 IST
The success of the Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance in Karnataka in stopping the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has emboldened the votaries of a united Opposition to take on the ruling party in 2019 and given regional parties hope that the Congress would be willing to play an important role without letting its ambitions come in the way.
Analysts, however, caution that the power balance between the Congress and non-Congress parties in each state will need to be negotiated carefully and a common message projected for any such grouping to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, an active proponent of the ‘Federal Front’, tweeted, soon after BJP’s two-day chief minister BS Yeddyuruppa’s resigned: “Democracy wins. Congratulations Karnataka. Congratulations Deve Gowdaji, Kumaraswamyji, Congress and others. Victory of the ‘regional front’”.
The alliance’s CM candidate, HD Kumaraswamy, also spoke to her on the phone and invited her for the swearing-in ceremony on Monday, the Trinamool Congress president later said in another tweet.
Banerjee’s rival, the Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury, who was among the leaders in touch with JD(S) chief HD Deve Gowda and encouraged him to ally with the Congress, tweeted, “The corrupt and criminal designs of the BJP have been defeated. This shows the Governor’s decision to invite the BJP to form a government was mala fide and against his constitutional mandate.” Yechury has also advocated an “understanding” with the Congress within his own party.
Manoj Jha, Rajya Sabha MP from the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), said there were significant takeaways from the Karnataka elections for parties that wanted to challenge the BJP.
“The first message is that on the basis of vote share, the Congress and the dominant regional party of the state have to decide who will occupy the front line and who will occupy the second line in each state. The second lesson is that we need to offer an alternative programme. The third is that we must make elections issue-, and not personality-centred.”
When asked if these lessons offered a model for 2019, Jha reiterated, “The broad model is the player best positioned to take on BJP in a state has to do so. For instance, in Madhya Pradesh or Rajasthan or Chhattisgarh, it is the Congress. But they must take into account civil society groups and social formations. In other states, it could be regional parties with Congress playing the supportive role.”
This balance is what analysts flag on the issue of a Federal Front against the BJP.
Milan Vaishnav, political scientist at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, “This victory marks a turning point for the Congress only if it learns the right lesson: it needs the help of coalition allies. It must subordinate its own ego and standing in service of a larger good. This will likely not be a national enterprise, but a state-by-state one. Congress is not used to playing second fiddle. It must learn.”
Sanjay Kumar of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies said the biggest takeaway from Karnataka is precisely the sign from the Congress to the rest of the Opposition parties that it is open to all adjustments to keep the BJP out.
“This signal was missing in the past. There were instead indications they want to lead. What you see now is an energised opposition, and a strong desire among many of the constituents to form a coalition.”
Zoya Hasan, a political scientist who has extensively studied the Congress, agreed. “What I found significant is that the Congress was willing to accept Kumaraswamy as (Karnataka) chief minister.
“This shows that the party is willing to stoop to conquer. In 2019, what the opposition will need is adjustment at the level of each state and then a post-poll alliance. I don’t see a pan-India front at the pre-poll stage.”
Rajya Sabha MP and head of BJP media cell, Anil Baluni said, “We are already fighting in different states the parties who propose to form a federal front against the BJP. We are challenging Mamata in Bengal, Lalu Prasad in Bihar, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh. They do not have base outside their state. Do you think the TDP will go to Bengal or Lalu to Tamil Nadu? Such a front will not pose any challenge.”