As sources close to JD(U) chief and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar say that he is close to mooting the idea of a federal front of regional parties including the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and of course the JD(U), it is pertinent to take a look at how the numbers stack up for a possible regional front going by the tally of the last general elections.
Together, the TMC (19 seats), the BJD (14 seats) and the JD(U) (20 seats) have 53 MPs in the Lok Sabha.
In case they manage to rope in SP (22 seats), the number swells to 75. Now throw in the NCP (9 seats) and the DMK (18 seats) in the mix and the number crosses the century-mark to rest at 102.
Humps on the way
The flip side of a federal front of regional satraps is that though regional parties (counting independents) represent close to 200 Lok Sabha constituencies out of the 543 which go to elections, many regional parties are such archrivals in their respective states that they are highly unlikely to be a part of the same coalition. Also the Shiv Sena, with 11 seats, is unlikely to be part of a non-BJP coalition.
Examples of such rivalries cut across all regions. The SP, which has 22 MPs, and the BSP, which has 21, are unlikely to be partners in a coalition government though the UPA is right now being supported from the outside by both.
Even if a rapprochement is remotely conceivable between the SP and the BSP for the sake of extreme opportunism, such an eventuality is simply impossible when it comes to the Left Front (24 seats) and the TMC (19 seats). Ditto for the DMK (18 seats) and the AIADMK (9 seats), the JD(U) (20 seats) and the RJD (4 seats), and of course the NCP and the Shiv Sena.
BSP too joins the coalition, taking the tally to 122. Since the Left Front has five more seats than the TMC and given its comfort with SP, if the JD(U) and BJD decide to dump TMC and go with the Left, the tally will rise to 127.
Highly improbable if not impossible, seeing a national non-Congress, non-BJP critical mass forming, the TDP (6 seats), SAD (4 seats), RLD (5 seats), J&KNC (3 seats), JD(S) (3 seats), JMM (2 seats), JVM (2 seats), MLKSC (2 seats), YSR (2 seats), TRS (2 seats) contribute their numbers. The number reaches a respectable 158. Ok, JMM and JVM can't stay together. So, 156 it is.
The AIMIM, AGP, AIUDF, Bahujan Vikas Aghadi, Kerala Congress, MDMK, Bodoland People's Front, Haryana Janhit Congress, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Sikkim Democratic Front, Swabhimani Paksha and Nagaland Peoples Front, all of whom have one MP each in the Lok Sabha also join the club. The eight independents too are roped in. This is the best case scenario and the number reaches 178 and one is afraid this is where their role ends.
Reaching the half-way mark
They are still almost a century-mark away from power and the only way a regional grouping can do it is if a large national party like the Congress (203 seats) or the BJP (116 seats) decide to go along or even provide outside support.
Even considering that the Congress' seats are going to be drastically reduced in the next elections, one does not feel that the BJP, in spite of the Namo phenomenon, will be able to cross much beyond the 160-170 mark, which is a big jump from its present 116 seats any way.
In any case, a powerful regional grouping will need the support from either of these national parties. Now considering the states in which minority votes often decide the fate of elections, both parliamentary and Assembly, (and the fact that Modi is equally divisive when it comes to the majority community too) it is more likely that a dispensation of regional parties may only come to power if it is supported by the Congress, either the grand old party coming in as a part of the coalition or offering support from outside just to keep the BJP at bay.