With less than one month to go for the Lok Sabha election to begin, the 11-party third front, which was sought to be formed as an alternative to the UPA and the NDA, looks dead in the water with seat-sharing talks between the Left, which was the prime mover in forging such an alliance, and the AIADMK falling through.
But to add to the confusion that characterises all third front formation attempts, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has jumped into the fray and said she felt that she could work with AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa as prime minister.
The iron lady of Poes Garden called Mamatadi and thanked her. With Ms Banerjee saying she is not averse to working with Mayawati either, the contours of such a front, even if it is formed, will change, escalating the possibility of genuine allies deserting the ship and walking over to the UPA or, more likely, the NDA.
This confusion was entirely to be expected for various reasons. The first is that the history of such a front in India has been anything but satisfactory, as seen since 1989. Next, if such a front was at all to be formed, the question is bound to come up as to why such an exercise is being undertaken so close to the election.
These parties did not work on any common agenda during the term of Parliament except, perhaps, in the matter of disruption. And finally, even if in the context of 1989 people could be led to believe an alternative to the Congress was required to ‘save the country from Rajiv Gandhi’, in 2014 it is difficult to keep up the pretence that such a band of parties is more ‘honest’ than the two dominant national parties and could provide a cleaner administration.
A closer look at the parties that were part of the 11-party front shows their claim to being an alternative to the BJP and the Congress is not always sustainable. Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal(U), Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal and the AIADMK have been part of the BJP-led NDA at some point or the other.
The Left parties and the BJP had been part of an understanding that put VP Singh on the prime minister’s seat in 1989. It is ironical that while it is being repeatedly stressed that in the age of coalition politics the PM’s post has been devalued, some politicians are unabashedly saying they are interested in becoming PM, while at the same time striking a posture that they are in politics only to serve the people and not for power.
Regional parties have been great votaries of the powers of states. Given that, they should expand their national footprint before eyeing power at the Centre.