When asked who would lead the coalition, Naidu said this would be decided in due course.
Bengaluru: Setting the pace for the formation of an Opposition front ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha polls to take on the ruling BJP, Andhra Pradesh chief minister N. Chandrababu Naidu met JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister H.D. Deve Gowda and his son H.D. Kumaraswamy, the Karnataka chief minister, in Bengaluru on Thursday and gave enough hints that the Opposition experiment would be similar to the exercise carried out in 1996 when a United Front (UF) government led by Mr Deve Gowda came to power in New Delhi with the support of the Congress. Mr Naidu, who broke away from the BJP-led NDA a few months ago on the issue of a special package for his state, has been spearheading the campaign for a grand alliance of the Opposition. He, however, ducked a question on who the prime ministerial candidate of the united Opposition would be, quipping: “We want to save the nation while you want some masala news.”
When asked who would lead the coalition, Mr Naidu said this would be decided in due course. “We had a similar government in 1996 led by Mr Deve Gowda, with the Congress supporting it from outside. The Congress is the main anchor (of the alliance) and the BJP is our main rival. I spoke to Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and tomorrow I am meeting M.K. Stalin (DMK chief). All of us will come together to save the country and save democracy,” he said, adding that West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee would be hosting a rally in January to firm up Opposition unity, followed by a farmers’ rally in Karnataka.
“All institutions have been destroyed. The CBI has been finished. Now the RBI, an autonomous institution, is under pressure. Media reports suggest the RBI governor wants to quit,” he said. He also attacked the NDA government over the income-tax and Enforcement Directorate raids on Opposition leaders’ offices and houses.
When his attention was drawn to the BJP’s criticism of the Opposition mahagathbandhan, saying it would come a cropper, Mr Naidu referred to the Congress-JD(S) experiment in Karnataka that had swept the recent Lok Sabha and Assembly bypolls, winning four of five seats. “What happened in Karnataka reflects the mood of the nation,” he said, and recalled the bonhomie of 1996 when he was the convenor of the United Front and Mr Deve Gowda was chairman of the front. “We enjoy a good rapport. I came to seek his blessings and cooperation which he agreed to extend,” the TDP chief said.
Asked whether the TDP would be dubbed opportunistic as it was a part of the NDA for four years before splitting away, Mr Naidu said: “We gave the BJP enough time but they did not implement a special package for Andhra or the provisions of the special act under which the new state was created.”
Later, Mr Deve Gowda said: “Mr Naidu is making an honest effort to bring all regional parties together. His effort is to defeat the NDA in the 2019 parliamentary elections. He has met all leaders, including Sharad Pawar and Farooq Abdullah. I would like to request the Congress Party to cooperate with this effort. The Congress has a greater responsibility in this regard.”
Karnataka CM H.D. Kumaraswamy said the political experiment of 1996 would be repeated in 2019 with the entry of Mr Naidu, who was coordinating with all the regional parties.