Millennium Post

Politics of unsustainability

Therefore, efforts last week of forming anti-Congress and anti-BJP front to fight communalism appeared to be a futile exercise.

Now that the idea of third front proved to be a non-starter, the secular voters may like the leaders of 14 non-BJP, non-Congress parties, to challenge Narendra Modi, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate. They can also fight the threat posed by fascism, communalism and terrorism.

Bihar chief minister, Nitish Kumar, who was star of the conclave of non-Congress, non-BJP parties, put the record straight by emphasising that as of now a new front was not being formed. ‘A new morcha at the moment is neither possible nor feasible’. But the need of the hour was to unite against communalism, terrorism and fascism.

Political observers ridiculed the idea of third front, comparing it with a high-rise building without an engineer and architect. It is simply erecting a structure where leader of each party would like to sit at the top. Can one imagine Jayalalithaa taking the backseat, leaving the steering wheel to a Nitish Kumar or Naveen Patnaik? She has also gone on record saying that Narendra Modi is her personal friend.

The TDP was invited but did not respond. Significantly, Trinamool Congress and the BSP were conspicuous by their absence. Apparently, Mamata Banerjee could not share dais with the Left parties and Mayawati simply hates Mulayam Singh. Among the parties present at the conclave were CPI-M, CPI, SP, JD-U, JD-S, BJD, NCP, AIADMK, AGP, RSP, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Forward Bloc and smaller outfits like People’s Party of Punjab.

The Left leaders and the SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav are convinced that there is remote possibility of constituting a third front before May, 2014 Lok Sabha elections. But chances of an alternative political platform, on the basis of alternative policies, different and radical than that of the Congress and the BJP, can be built.

CPI-M leader, Prakash Karat, is also not optimistic that a front would ever be constituted. He said that anti-communal convention on 30 October did not seek possibility of forming a third front. The conclave, he said, was only to get together non-congress secular parties and ‘express our opposition to rising communalism’. He believed that the conclave was relevant as the BJP has decided to field Modi as its prime ministerial candidate and ‘we have to oppose him. Therefore, the third front is unlikely. And even if it was formed, it would be doomed from the very outset.’

Every election ends up with the demise of the promise of a third alternative. This time around, even the promise of a non-Congress, non-BJP electoral alliance remains stillborn.

Despite the Left Front’s best efforts to bring disparate and often contradictory forces on to a common platform, not a single party of any consequence is willing to forge a national alliance or hold hands for a seat adjustment before the elections.

Even the common ‘anti-communalism’ platform of 14 parties to protest recent incidents of communal violence, doesn’t offer an electoral understanding before the 2014 Parliamentary elections. What has really changed after the last Third Front experiment in 1996?

First of all, the Third Front, though a great idea, is something of a political myth. It really was always a ‘second front’ against the ruling Congress or the BJP and never a non-aligned third group of parties or an independent entity.

For instance, when the Congress was first defeated in the Assembly elections of 1967 and Samyukta Vidhayak Dal governments took over in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and elsewhere, it was an experiment in coalition politics by the Centre-Right forces, including the Socialist parties and the RSS-controlled Jan Sangh.

The formation of the Janata Party was a bigger experiment for a ‘second front’ against the Congress by all the forces inimical to the ruling party, except the Communist parties.

By 1989, the BJP had come into its own as a right wing force, and remained a separate entity, with the Janata Dal occupying the centrist space against the Congress.

The Janata Dal was formed in 1988 with the merger of various groups of the Lok Dal, Congress (S) and V P Singh’s Jan Morcha.

It was the Janata Dal that led the National Front government in 1989 and the United Front government in 1996. First the Left and the right-wing parties supported V P Singh to form his government, making it the ‘second front’ against the Congress. The ‘first front’, the Congress, decided to sit in the Opposition, despite being the single largest party with 195 seats.

After the debilitating split in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar in 1996, the Janata Dal had just 30 members in Parliament, much less than the single largest party, the BJP with 163 MPs, or the second largest party, the Congress, which had 140 seats in the Lok Sabha.

The Janata Dal’s count was even less than that of the CPI(M), which had 32 MPs and the party came to power only because it was propped up by the Congress, the Left and several other regional parties.

Cut to 2013. There is no Janata Dal or any successor that has risen to occupy its centrist space at the national level. It is not because the party has disappeared, it has only got dismembered. It exists, but in parts as regional parties without a national whole.

The ruling Janata Dal (U) and the principal Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal of Bihar, the ruling Samajwadi Party of Uttar Pradesh and the Biju Janata Dal of Odisha and the Opposition Janata Dal (S) of Karnataka are all remnants of the old Janata Dal. When put together, they still are a potent force.


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