Millennium Post

Can Third Front become reality?

Is there a scope for a third force again? It is nearly two decades since a Third Front government ruled India. However this idea is resurrected before every general election. The regrouping of political forces has already begun. Both the UPA and the NDA have shrunk and they are looking for partners. The likelihood of a Third Front government in 2014 cannot be ruled out if there is a hung Parliament.

However, if such a formation is indeed forced upon India, there could be a bid for power by the regional leaders. The basis for this appears to be that the ruling UPA has substantially weakened by series of corruption scams and political scandals while NDA is already fragmented. Hence the two fronts face the threat of a third force but any such grouping would have to be based on common policies and programmes. This is where the problem arises.

 Secondly, the recent success of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi, which had sidelined the major national parties, has proved that there is a space available for a third force. The voters are disenchanted with both the Congress and the BJP. Encouraged by its success, the AAP is now ambitious to go national and contest in at least 350 seats. The Congress and the BJP are nervous of this new development and are in the process of reworking their electoral strategies.

Thirdly, with the splintering of political parties, majority of them are reluctant to join hands with NDA fearing backlash from the minority communities. Aligning with the already weakened UPA will not bring them any power. UPA is facing double anti incumbency and also an image crisis while the growing number of regional parties is optimistic of their performances in the next parliamentary elections. These ambitious regional satraps knowing that they cannot become the prime minister without support from other parties make attempts for formation of third front. Power sharing is what brings these parties together.

Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar’s attempts this week to form a third alternative are also one of them. Nitish has prime ministerial ambitions and has secular credentials. He has his own Bihar model of development to sell to the electorate. But leaving the NDA has weakened his party. There are predictions that his party may not do as well as he expected because of the upper castes still sticking to the BJP. The Congress-RJD-LJP combination is also said to be formidable.

Pushed to the corner Nitish is now looking for an alternative making a pitch for a third front calling it return of the Janata Parivar and has also roped in the SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav who is on a slippery ground in UP after the Muzaffarnagar riots. The idea is to bring back the Janata Dal led by V P Singh, which consisted of the present JD (U), JD (S), and BJD but two other parties – the RJD and LJP are now out of this group as they have already aligned with the Congress in Bihar. It is all for a planned post-poll alliance should each of the constituents get a good number of seats. The three parties Nitish has named so far are those, which are supporting the UPA-II from outside. While the Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal (S), are formally supporting it, the JD (U) is doing it tacitly. The left parties are the cementing force for this front.

Nitish Kumar is only taking forward the idea mooted in last October when 14 parties combined on a secular platform as a first step. The October gathering in Delhi brought together diverse parties like the Janata Dal U) Samajwadi Party, AIADMK, BJD and UPA ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Janata Dal (S), the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha-Prajatantrik and the Asom Gana Parishad. But four of the regional parties – JD (U), AIADMK, JVM and AGP – were part of the NDA earlier.

This brings us to the question whether this new effort will succeed in the present political scenario. First of all not all the non -congress non- BJP parties can come together as some parties cannot co exist with others? For instance Trinamool Congress would not come with the left while the DMK and the AIADMK cannot go together. The SP and the BSP also cannot be in the same front.

Secondly, with the more splintering of the polity, unless and the BJP and the Congress together get less than the half of 542 Lok Sabha there could be no third force.  It also depends on the BJP getting less than 150 -160 seats. There are too many ifs and buts.

Thirdly, there is likely to be a big ego clash among these regional satraps who lord over their own fiefdom. When each leader is bidding for 7, Race Course Road how will they reconcile to the fact that they have to agree on one person to lead them?

Fourthly, running the government would be difficult because each regional satrap will be pulling in different directions just as Chandra Babu Naidu did earlier and demand their pound of flesh for their support. The earlier formations had been short lived and never completed their full term be it the Janata party, National Front or the United Front. Past experience has also proved that no front could form the government without the support of either the Congress or the BJP.

It is often said that these parties with a socialist base could never remain together for long and also never remain separate for long. Perhaps Nitish and Mulayam Singh are attempting to come together once again and one can only wish good luck to them.

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