Indian Regional Parties Move Toward Gandhi, BJP Alternative

Eleven Indian regional parties said they were forming a bloc to coordinate positions in the current session of parliament, a precursor to a possible coalition in national elections due by May.

“The bloc has been set up primarily to raise issues affecting the people in parliament,” Sitaram Yechury, a leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), told reporters in New Delhi yesterday after a meeting of regional-party leaders. “A joint program will be launched later” on campaigning together in the general election, he said.

The regional parties seek to emerge as an alternative to the ruling Congress party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, with polls indicating no single group will be able to form a majority. Rahul Gandhi’s Congress and Narendra Modi’s BJP are wooing smaller parties to try to ensure victory.

“This is the first step toward a formal non-Congress, non-BJP national coalition, and it will emerge in some form closer to the elections,” said A.S. Narang, professor of political science at the New Delhi-based Indira Gandhi National Open University. “There are parties that sense there won’t be a clear mandate, and such a scenario serves as a chance for regional chieftains to grab power at the federal level.”

The regional parties are modeling themselves on the United Front, which ran India’s government from 1996 to 1998 after neither of the two main parties was able to form a coalition. A similar alliance took power in 1989.

Third Front

Neither of these so-called third-front governments survived a full five-year term.

The 11 parties in the new formation hold 92 seats in the 545-member lower house of the Indian parliament.

The regional parties that banded together yesterday included the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party, Biju Janata Dal and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham.

Taking aim at the new bloc in remarks in West Bengal state today, Modi said yesterday that politically left parties had “destroyed” the eastern region of India and that voters must “banish them forever,” Press Trust of India reported.

The BJP is set to win 188 seats in the 545-member lower house, surpassing the 182 seats it won in 1999, according to a C-Voter poll for India Today published Jan. 23. Congress may get as few as 91 seats versus 210 now, dropping to its lowest on record, the poll indicated. A separate survey on Jan. 24 showed the BJP winning as many as 210 seats, with a maximum of 108 for Congress.

The BJP and its allies would win 212 seats, more than the 159 seats they took in the 2009 elections, while the Congress-led alliance would get 103 seats, the C-Voter poll found.

Yechury said the future program of the regional parties will contain issues related to the livelihood of the people, upholding federalism and combating corruption.

The two houses of parliament yesterday faced repeated disruption over a bill to create a new southern Indian state.

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