Fresh from a landslide victory in the assembly elections, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao stepped up his campaign to build a non-BJP, non-Congress Federal Front today, meeting his Odisha counterpart Naveen Patnaik. KCR, as Mr Rao is popularly known among his supporters, has already approached a number of opposition leaders, including Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of Bengal, who has been a vocal proponent of a larger role for regional parties on the national stage.
Over the coming week, Mr Rao has plans to continue his dialogue with Ms Banerjee and Uttar Pradesh leaders Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav. His party, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, has hired a special aircraft for a month to help Mr Rao with the city-hopping.
The seven-day campaign started this morning with a visit to Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh to offer prayers at the Rajasyamala Temple and seek blessings of Swami Swarupanandendra of the famed Sarada Peeth.
The next stop was Bhubaneswar, to meet Mr Patnaik.
The Odisha chief minister, who has been ruling the state for nearly two decades, has so far carefully maintained distance from both Congress and the BJP.
Addressing a joint press conference, Naveen Patnaik said he had congratulated Mr Rao on his victory in the assembly elections and also mentioned his schemes for farmers. He said they had discussed national politics but would not commit on a federal front. Mr Patnaik refused to answer on whether the BJP or Congress is politically ‘the bigger threat’.
After supporting the NDA in the Presidential election, the BJD had switched to the opposition camp, but given the scale of Venkaiah Naidu’s victory, the Odisha Congress had expressed suspicion of cross-voting by the BJD lawmakers.
For the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman’s election in August, Mr Patnaik’s party supported NDA candidate Harivansh Narayan Singh, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi dialled the Chief Minister. The eight votes of his party helped the government win what would otherwise have been a close-fought election.
After staying the night at Mr Patnaik’s official residence, Mr Rao will visit the Konark Temple and Jagannatha Temple, before leaving for Kolkata on Monday.
Ms Banerjee — who is interested in forming an alliance of regional powers to reach a better bargaining position with the Congress — has given a positive response to Mr Rao. A number of leaders, who are expecting to join the opposition front against the BJP, have shown interest in the idea.
The other probables for Mr Rao include Mayawati, who had fallen out with the Congress over seat division ahead of the recent assembly elections, but is back to supporting the party in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan to keep the BJP out of power.