New Delhi/Patna/Hyderabad: The proposal for a Federal Front got some boost Thursday with the Telugu Desam expressing readiness to join it while Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said his JD-U was holding discussions with his West Bengal and Odisha counterparts, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, on the issue.
The Bharatiya Janata Part (BJP), meanwhile, continued efforts through Thursday to retain the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Frontline BJP leaders met the stalwarts of JD-U, the alliance's second largest component, to clear the latter's misgivings over Narendra Modi leading the BJP's 2014 Lok Sabha poll campaign.
In Hyderabad, Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief and former Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu told reporters that he was in touch with leaders of various regional parties, including Banerjee, over the formation of the proposed front, and the TDP was always ready to work with non-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and non-NDA parties.
"We will take a decision at an appropriate time on joining Third Front or Federal Front. I am confident the regional parties will come together and form the Third Front as an alternative to both the UPA and the NDA," he said, claiming both the Congress and the BJP and the two alliances headed by them were weakening day by day.
"The regional parties are gaining in strength, and they will form the next government at the centre," said Naidu, who was convenor of the United Front which formed governments at the centre in 1996 and 1998.
The TDP chief was confident that his party would again play a crucial role in national politics.
In Patna, Nitish Kumar said his party was in touch with Banerjee and Patnaik.
"Yes, we discussed the issue. But the matter is still in early stages, and it is not proper to make guesses about the new formation now," he told reporters before leaving for Katihar on his "Sewa Yatra" (people's service journey).
Nitish Kumar also said BJP president Rajnath Singh late Wednesday night spoke to him about the tension between the JD-U and BJP over the elevation of Gujarat Chief Minister Modi to the party's campaign chief for the 2014 general elections.
"(Senior BJP leader) Murli Manohar Joshi also telephoned me," he said.
The JD-U, which has considerable support from minorities, is alarmed that Modi's elevation could affect its votebank in Bihar.
Former BJP president Nitin Gadkari and party vice-president Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, the BJP's Muslim face, met JD-U president Sharad Yadav at his residence in New Delhi for over an hour as part of the BJP's efforts to prevent a clean split between the two parties.
In Bangalore, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav said people of the country were for a "visible" alternative front at the centre and Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav's role would be important in forming it.
He underscored that the SP has always played an important role to take on the Congress and BJP and the coming together of smaller parties would strengthen its cause.
However, the Federal Front proponents drew flak from the BJP.
In Hyderabad, senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said the so-called Third Front or Federal Front were all tried and failed experiments. "The parties which supported the Congress and are now supporting it can never become an alternative," he said.
The BJP's West Bengal unit chief Rahul Sinha decribed Banerjee's call for the front as a diversionary tactic from the problems plaguing her government.
Banerjee Monday called for the formation of a Federal Front saying they needed to walk together to free the country from "misrule" and "anti-people" decisions.
Since leaving the Congress-led UPA last September, Banerjee has been pitching for all non-Congress and non-BJP parties to rally together ahead of the next general elections.