Chennai: TRS founder and Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao – who is eyeing a larger role for himself in a non-BJP, non-Congress Federal Front, in case the two national parties fall short of majority – met DMK president M K Stalin at the latter’s bungalow in Chennai. The Telangana CM, who is supposedly eyeing Deputy Prime Ministership, can see the political space for a regional grouping at the Centre, comprising Stalin, HD Kumaraswamy and him with Mamata or even Mayawati as the pivot.

Both leaders did not speak to the media, unlike during an earlier meeting between [Rao’s regional rival] TDP leader and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu and Stalin. The DMK released a statement describing it merely as a courtesy meeting. However, sources in the DMK indicated that Stalin had used the occasion to urge Rao to back the Congress should a need arise in the post-poll scenario.

“Our leader was the first to propose Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s name as Prime Ministerial candidate in the run up to the Lok Sabha polls. There is no change in his position. Therefore, the possibility of the DMK exploring the option of being a part of a Federal Front comprising regional parties is ruled out,” a DMK second line leader said in private.

Sources said Stalin had used the occasion to tell Rao that all parties that had faith in democracy must extend support to ensure that a Congress-led Government is installed at the Centre after the declaration of results. It was not known how Rao responded to this suggestion by Stalin. Rao had last year met Stalin to discuss issues relating to state autonomy.

“Despite his rival Chandrababu Naidu meeting Stalin a few months ago, Rao had no inhibitions in calling on our leader,” the DMK source pointed out. Earlier in the day, Rao offered prayers at the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Srirangam in Tiruchi district. He told journalists that it was a “divine visit”.

KCR is convinced that both the Congress and the BJP will fall short of majority; he is discounting Chandrababu Naidu and expects Jaganmohan Reddy of the YSR Congress to do well in both assembly and Parliament elections in Andhra Pradesh. Incidentally, Reddy has already said that he will work in tandem with KCR.

Such a federal combine could throw up the first prime minister, or at least a deputy PM, from the South, it is felt. Some political observers see in KCR’s moves a BJP gambit to test political waters in case a diminished NDA needs to rope in more allies to form a government at the Centre.