The Third Front

By Geeta Padmanabhan

third-frontIt happened on 12 March at Dobbespet, Karnataka. The attendance was surprisingly big, considering a lot of these were regional parties. There was the usual speechifying and the now-expected raising of locked hands while standing.

The Third Front is a wedding menu of parties – different colours, shapes, tastes and temperaments. It is a collection mostly of parties defeated at the last Lok Sabha elections. All bound loosely by the “rice” of power. Some of these parties are familiar while others make it to the news only when horse-trading begins. A rainbow coalition.

Don’t expect ideology here, but there is an agenda – defeat the Congress-led UPA and the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA in the Lok Sabha elections to form the next government at the Centre. So you can expect them to be together for a while.

Here is the guest list: Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, the Janata Dal (Secular), the Telugu Desam Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, the Revolutionary Socialist Party, the Forward Bloc, and the Janhit Congress Party of the former Haryana Chief Minister, Bhajan Lal.

The former Prime Minister and JD (S) chief H.D. Deve Gowda is supposed to have “engineered” it. He said it was all CPM Prakash Karat’s doing. Karat returned the compliment. The “historic” alignment would address the “country’s need for a new alternative.” It is of course a “secular democratic alternative, to fulfil the aspirations of the masses.” Members believe the Front will “expand” during the run-up to the elections. Biju Janata Dal (BJD) may hop into this odd bandwagon.

Party heads conspicuous by their absence were the two women heavy-weights – BSP’s Mayawati and AIADMK’s Jayalalitha. But the Left, which has 60 seats in the outgoing Lok Sabha is supposed to provide the glue to keep the members together.

The Congress reacted typically: “It is a mirage. Every time the Third Front is formed, it benefits only the communal forces.

BJP said: Won’t work. It has no agenda, no leader.

That is not true. Each one of the partners is a leader.  The problem is who will be PM if the Third Front together is able to chalk up the numbers to form the government. Mayawati has “expressed her willingness to serve the country as the next PM.” Jayalalitha said the decision would be made after the elections (if there’s need for that decision). “Every one has a right to aspire for the post,” she said.

Will they find the 270-odd seats together? Can’t say. So Karat declared today: If the Congress wants to join us post-poll, they are welcome.

Now that’s interesting. A Third Front government, with Congress as alliance partner.

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