‘Expired poll chocolates,’ is the BJP’s Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s rather colourful description of a potential Third Front. That the description is more or less apt is a pity because the polity could do with a vigorous third political formation.
Yet it is an idea whose time has come but is never realised and there is little reason to believe that it will this time around either. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is right when he says that neither the Congress nor the BJP will get the numbers to form the next government on their own.
But even they don’t claim that they will, rather they are doing the math on the alliances they can put together. The fact that one of the prime movers behind the Third Front idea this time around again is the CPI(M)’s glacial general secretary Prakash Karat whose political acumen leaves much to be desired is alarming.
His handling of West Bengal and Kerala has been uniformly criticised after these bastions fell to other political parties.
While the idea of a Third Front is an excellent one, it is highly doubtful if the present crop of aspirants can pull it off. In fact, there is every evidence to suggest that such a formation would be dead in the water even before it takes off.
Mr Yadav has made it clear that such a grouping will come together only after the polls. By then, it is likely to be too late. Whichever big party gets the numbers which give it a shot at the government will attract the regional parties that are ideologically compatible.
The main chink in the Third Front concept is that the parties that seek to form it are usually drawn together by some grievance or the other. The Left, of course, is opposed to the UPA’s economic policies and it sees that even if a BJP-led government were to come to power, the economics would not change all that much.
The Samajwadi Party is angry about the government dropping the ordinance, which sought to protect convicted lawmakers, among other things. And many of the others have their own grouses. This hardly makes for a cohesive formation. Their ideologies are sharply at variance and their ambitions run on parallel tracks.
The potential Third Front has often been called a grouping full of prime ministers. This makes it almost doomed from the word go. If it had worked it would have given voters a much greater choice and it would have been good for democracy. But unfortunately, as things stand, it seems to be an idea which will be raised before each election but is soon put in cold storage until the next.