The Congress on Saturday fielded Pranab Mukherjee to attack the Third Front’s viability, relevance and ability to provide a stable government or offer a vision of governance.
“There are inherent contradictions… Their objective is to form a non-Congress, non-BJP government. Has it been possible for them to do so all these years,” he asked. He recalled the early demise of Third Front governments in 1977, 1989 and 1998-99, overlooking the role of the BJP or Congress in withdrawing support.
More comfortable fighting the NDA on the secular versus communal plank, the Front’s emergence has forced the Congress to change strategy mid-stream. But Mukherjee denied his party was rattled, though his diatribe did come on the eve of a dinner for Front leaders by Mayawati, an aspirant for the PM’s post, like H.D. Deve Gowda and others. Mukherjee ridiculed the Front’s claim to the post as a case of “putting the cart before the horse” when the issue will be decided by the seats won by parties.
The Congress’s fears, however, are that the Front — which gets its legitimacy from the Left — would divide the secular vote and wean away UPA (and NDA) allies in the event of a fractured mandate. To counter this threat, Sonia Gandhi had last month urged her MPs to tell voters the polls are to elect a national government and the Congress is the “only truly national party” while the regional parties keep the focus on local issues.
However, Mukherjee did admit that the Congress was losing space to regional parties in some states and going for alliances out of “compulsion, not choice”.