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HindustanTimes Sat,02 Aug 2014
Everyone's in the driver’s seat as the Third Front idea re-emerges
Chanakya , Hindustan Times
October 20, 2013
First Published: 00:43 IST(20/10/2013)
Last Updated: 20:19 IST(20/10/2013)

Have you ever felt that the Left parties are sometimes too clever by half? I have and my feelings on this issue have been strengthened after learning that the Left parties have organised a convention against communalism in Delhi at the end of this month. Nothing wrong with that, we abhor communalism. But this is apparently a meet aimed at attracting partners for a potential Third Front. Then why not say so and hope that like-minded parties will come calling?

And this is very much in the realm of possibility today. Naveen Patnaik has said that a Third Front could be an option as he is uncomfortable with the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi and he is not too keen on Rahul Gandhi either. The JD(U) meanwhile, also enthused at the prospect of a Third Front has started trying to rope in the Trinamool Congress. I would love to see the expression on CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat’s face if Mamata Banerjee were to signal her willingness to join a Third Front.

In order to accommodate the SP, naturally the BSP has to be kept out. So much for the Left’s concern for the Dalits. Chandrababu Naidu seems to have shot himself in the foot. After railing against communal forces, he has tripped over himself to try and get an invitation to share a platform with Narendra Modi. So that leaves Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress. Wily Jagan has left all options open, praising Narendrabhai while saying that the Gujarat strongman should be secular. Quite a tall order that, for a man who cringes at the thought of wearing Muslim headgear in public.

I think that any Third Front is like a high-rise built without an engineer or architect. It is simply erecting a structure because each party feels that once the formation comes into being they will be top dog. Can you ever see a J Jayalalithaa taking the backseat to Nitish Kumar or Naveen Patnaik? Oh, and incidentally she is on record saying that Modi is her personal friend. The problem with any formation led by the Left is in the lack of policies which can win over people. Who on earth is bothered about the Left’s principled objections to the nuclear deal, who in their right minds is going to have sleepless nights about western imperialism trying to enslave India? As for Mamata, her aversion to foreign investment in retail is well known. The only two really credible forces in such a formation, should it come to fruition, are Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar. But both of them seem far more inclined to stay in their own state territories than assume a greater national role.

The SP suffers from no ambiguity on what it wants — prime ministership for netaji. That netaji has hobbled his own son in his efforts to run the state by remote control is another matter. And the SP is also known for its opposition to foreign investment. I certainly don’t feel comfortable with a party which at one time felt that English was a colonial legacy and should be done away with.

A really cohesive Third Front is a good idea. It would give voters a much greater choice. But given the fact that this is a formation driven by negativism, a dislike of the BJP and the Congress, it is not held together by any common agenda. Being anti-communal is not likely to get people queuing up to sign on.  Then there is the case of the monumental egos of the people concerned. There are successful chief ministers, there are ones who have blotted their copybook, there are leaders like the worthy Karat who have actually never won an election and whose political sense is so off tangent that he has presided over the colossal defeat of the Left in both West Bengal and Kerala.

And on foreign policy, I wonder where all of them would stand. Karat most definitely will have no truck with the US, the others would be more than willing to do business with America. Mamata Banerjee does not like to do business with Bangladesh and to Jayalalithaa, Sri Lanka’s ruling dispensation is anathema. What a motley crew.

I for one would not really feel too safe trusting this bunch to pull India out of the economic hole we are in and push it towards global greatness. A coming together of all these disparate formations would be more like the Mad Hatter’s tea party than a credible political forum. Modi has many faults, but at least he is clear on what he wants. Rahul is a little more opaque, but at least we know the Congress Party’s views on issues which affect us.

It is only the Left which I feel is sincere about a Third Front but that is because it is being threatened with complete political irrelevance today. And have you noticed that it is only around election time that this Third Front idea suddenly seizes parties other than the big two. I wonder why like-minded parties didn’t think of this earlier. After all, it is not as though the Left was overburdened with work all these years after the UPA II came to power. But it should be fun to see how long the house of cards will hold up this time around. I am waiting eagerly for the month end and the Left convention. If nothing it should provide a pleasant diversion from the ghastly price rise.


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