K Chandrashekar Rao, who has been meeting with various political leaders ahead of the national election results, is pushing for all regional parties to operate as a bloc, especially the parties in the south. The Telangana Chief Minister's meeting on Monday with MK Stalin, the DMK chief who claims to be committed to the alliance with the Congress, was to explore options in case of a split verdict, sources indicated.
"KCR said regional parties must come together and demand a greater slice of the pie. Not just cabinet berths, but something at a higher level... They should have a say in policy decisions and even the appointment of Governors," a source said.
KCR, as Mr Rao is dubbed by his party workers, is seen as closer to the BJP, having supported them earlier for votes in parliament. But he has not negotiated with the Congress, directly or indirectly.
When Mr Stalin - who has twice suggested the name of Rahul Gandhi for the post of the Prime Minister - told him to support the Congress, Mr Rao didn't rule it out, sources said.
Mr Rao believes that neither the BJP nor the Congress will be in a position to form government at the centre on their own and regional parties will play a critical role and will benefit by choosing to strategically bargain together.
The Telangana Chief Minister has already reached out to his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan, Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy and Mamata Banerjee in Bengal. He also has the promise of support from Jaganmohan Reddy, chief of the opposition YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh.
Sources say if Mr Rao can gain support just in Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, he can bring to the table a larger chunk of seats than say, Mamata Banerjee, or even Mayawati, who too, harbour national ambitions.
Tamil Nadu has 39 Lok Sabha seats. Telangana, where Mr Rao won a landslide victory last year, has 17 seats, neighbouring Andhra Pradesh has 25 seats. Kerala has 20 seats and Karnataka 28. Together, they add up to 129 seats - way above the 80 seats in Uttar Pradesh or 42 in Bengal.
But even Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee - a fierce advocate of regional parties having a bigger role at the centre - has shown interest in a regional front that can form a strong lobby and negotiate from a position of power with the national parties. She has also spoken of further meetings with KCR.
Mr Rao is counting on support from some of the leaders he has approached as earlier, he had extended support to some of them when they needed it. Since then, he has cultivated the relationship and kept communication lines open.
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