NEW DELHI: A loose coalition of regional parties is building both in and outside Parliament. Senior leaders have been in touch, more so after the Bihar elections that brought the Janata Dal(U) led alliance and Nitish Kumar to power.

An indication of the new bonhomie is a signal by Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee that she will campaign for the Aam Aadmi Party in the Assembly elections in Punjab. This is well before time, as the polls are due only early 2017. However, given the new challenges clearly the political parties are not leaving politics to chance and the ‘campaigning’ has begun already in not just the five states---including West Bengal, Kerala, Assam---that are scheduled to go to the polls next year but also in crucial states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh where the elections are due in 2017.

Banerjee clearly wants Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal to return the favour. He has not committed as yet, as this could jeopardise his relations with the Left. In Bihar he had campaigned for Nitish Kumar and the secular alliance.

The chief ministers of Delhi, West Bengal, Orissa, Bihar are in touch with an eye on more structured coalitions in the future. Jammu and Kashmir National Conference is ‘talking’ to them as well through Farooq Abdullah, as is the DMK in Tamil Nadu.

Uttar Pradesh remains a little out of this new solidarity building up, as Samajwadi party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is now no longer a favourite with any of the above leaders. After deserting Nitish Kumar led alliance in Bihar at the last moment, Mulayam Singh has lost his clout with sources maintaining that “now no one really wants to touch him.” Eyes are on Bahujan Samaj party chief Mayawati, but even tentative feelers have not been sent out to her as she is seen as “unpredictable.” As a senior political leader said, “she takes her own decisions, and cannot be influenced by anyone at this stage. Perhaps closer to the general elections…..”

The Congress party that was part of the Bihar alliance is currently out on a limb because of the National Herald issue. The regional parties have decided neither to attack the party, or defend it but just maintain a distance letting the Congress fight this issue out on its own. Senior Congress leaders were not able to persuade the regional MPs to join them in the Rajya Sabha on this.

Sources said that these were early days as yet but the glimmerings of the cooperation visible in Parliament would be “more visible” with time. While the ‘choices’ are clear cut for them in most of the states, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh pose a problem as the Left parties are also fairly close to the regional groups. However, the Left despite efforts decided to contest the Bihar elections separately, and this could weigh with the JD(U) and Rashtriya Janata Dal when it finally comes to stitching up alliances in West Bengal for instance.

A quiet effort is on to rebuild the old Janata Dal, with political offshoots like the Janata Dal(S) being contacted, as well as erstwhile Janata Dal leaders who joined other political parties. “There is no rush,” the sources said, pointing out that slow and steady was the mantra as Nitish Kumar had demonstrated in Bihar. He started the process of alignments long before the elections were held, thereby overcoming most of the hurdles well before the media spotlights turned to Bihar.