CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat moves in predictable ways, his blunders to perform. And so yet again, come elections and Mr Karat is back to what he is best at doing, trying to cobble together a third front, or federal front or first front, take your pick. He is either blinded by ambition or incredibly naïve to imagine that this motley crew will hold together.
Among the luminaries of the front are the Left parties themselves, the Samajwadi Party, the AIADMK, the JD(U), the JD(S) and so on. Now we can understand the JD(S) and its compulsions. After an unremarkable stint as prime minister, HD Deve Gowda wants another shot at the job. Having alienated his Muslim constituency, Mulayam Singh Yadav has no other place to go.
The AIADMK is not a shoo-in as J Jayalalithaa always keeps her options open and she has publicly said that Narendra Modi is a close friend. The JD(U) is in a bit of a bind after having left the NDA and is floundering about for a parking slot. And so on.
Mr Karat, having presided over the decline of the Left in West Bengal and contributed to its defeat in Kerala, has now fallen back on his old ambition of becoming a national player.
He was a national player at one time but threw all that away for the nuclear deal when his strategy of trying to stare the UPA government down came to naught. Mr Yadav has said that a decision on the prime minister will be taken soon, almost suggesting that the front is a surefire winner. But he forgot to add that he hoped to occupy that position, as does Ms Jayalalithaa whose supporters recently cut a 66-kg (on her 66th birthday) Parliament-shaped cake.
Nitish Kumar too would not mind trying his hand at the prime ministerial stakes and no doubt many other front leaders would too. This is an in-built flaw in such fronts as past experience suggests. Everyone is a general and there are no foot soldiers. Besides, almost all of them have vastly differing priorities and almost none of them have any national vision on issues like security, foreign policy or the economy.
Providing a so-called secular front and keeping the BJP and the Congress out of power is not a viable goal in itself. Such a front should have a blueprint which is attractive to the young voters, who form a bulk of the electorate. Mr Karat’s track record is not likely to inspire much confidence in anyone, especially considering he has never contested and won an election in his life. But that has not deterred him from leading from the front on the front.