Communist Party of India (CPI) general secretary AB Bardhan said a non-Congress, non-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government has a distinct possibility of coming to power in the coming election on the basis of existing realities.
"We will be number one, the Congress will be number two and the BJP may be number three," Bardhan told Karan Thapar in his "Devil's Advocate" programme on CNN-IBN.
Asked whether the Left would support a United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government to keep the BJP out, the veteran communist said they would "prefer to sit in the opposition".
"Let them run a government. We will sit in the opposition. If such an alternative that we are visualising on the assessment of reality that a non-Congress and a non-BJP (party) can come to power - firstly because of certain poll alliances and secondly because of post-poll possibilities that are open before us and we are aware of them," he said.
He said that the BJP would not come to power as it was in "disarray" and it would come third in any race.
Asked whether they would support a government with Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) head Lalu Prasad at the prime minister's position, he said: "Let there be. We will sit in the opposition."
He said Pawar's party and Navin Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal in Orissa would enter into a tie-up with the Left.
"The four Left parties, the TDP (Telegu Desam Party), the AIADMK, the Janata Dal-Secular, and I can also tell you that the NCP - in some states may be with the Congress, but in number of other states it will have state specific alliances with us."
Bardhan said they were looking at state-specific alliances. "There is no possibility of a national-level alliance with all parties," he said.
"We are keeping the door open for such secular parties, which today happen to be elsewhere, we expect them to bring with us."
About supporting the Congress after the 2004 elections, Bardhan said: "I will tell you that in real life if sometimes you know your enemy well - if you know the devil - then you know how to deal with it. But if someone pretends not to be the devil but behaves like a devil, then what will you do."
Would they support a Congress-led government if Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who they consider to have pushed the India-US nuclear deal, was not prime minister, he said: "That presumes we are looking at individuals, personalities.
"That is not how it is. We Communists, Leftists look at policies. With or without Manmohan Singh if the same policies are perused and they are not changed at all, what is the question.
"At the moment I think there is no choice between the two. The BJP of course is the traditional (foe) because of its divisive, communal policies but then the Congress has also not done well," he added.
On their alliance with Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, Bardhan said at "no stage" did they ever "open a talk with her on sharing seats".