In a pointed snub to his party’s central leadership, CPI(M) patriach Jyoti Basu on Tuesday cast doubts on the electoral prospects of the fledgling Third Front as an alternative to the Congress and BJP-led alliances at the centre. The CPM is at the forefront of efforts to give the Front tangible shape.
“It is very difficult to form a Third Front government, but efforts are being made in that direction,” Basu said.
The 94-year-old, who holds a world record of having headed a democratically elected government for the longest period of 23 consecutive years, reminded his party that it had missed out on an opportunity to join a similar government at the centre 13 years ago.
“The Third Front is the only alternative. If it forms a government at the centre, we may perhaps join this time. Last time we could not, but this time we may,” Basu said.
Coming a day after the CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat had hinted as much, Basu’s comments are being seen as a suggestion that the party rectify its mistake.
Basu’s “last time” reference was to June 1996, when the non-Congress and non-BJP parties, similar to the present third front, had come to power, with the outside support of the Congress. It was called the United Front. Not only was the CPI(M) invited to join, but Basu had emerged a clear consensus candidate for the prime minister’s position.
Basu and then party general secretary late Harkishan Singh Surjeet wanted to join the government, but all other Politburo members led by Karat had vetoed the move, which was endorsed by the Central Committee.
The majority of party leaders who were opposed to joining the government at that time, had referred to the party programme that bars it from joining any government where it cannot decisively influence policies. The majority view was that the CPI(M) would only support from outside.
Thereafter HD Deve Gowda was chosen prime minister. Basu later called the decision a “historic blunder”.
If indeed a Third Front government is formed and the CPI(M) joins it, it will have to first amend the party programme, not an easy task for a communist party.