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Close encounters of the Third Front kind

india Updated: Mar 13, 2009 21:31 IST

Hindustan Times
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It’s best to look at the entity called the ‘Third Front’ as a chip to be used at the gambling table of Election 2009.

Representatives of nine political outfits announced the resurrection of the old creature at a rally on Thursday. But the stitches are visible and even after announcing that ‘it’s alive!’, the Third Front is walking about with its arms akimbo.

The fact that political waters are being tested was evident by the absence of the Biju Janata Dal, recently freed from a stifling marriage with the BJP. Also, the BSP chief Mayawati’s absence drove home the point that a house is yet to be built on this foundation. The AIADMK, too, sent an emissary, even as party chief J. Jayalalithaa took potshots at the UPA for hitching its electoral fortunes with the ruling DMK in Chennai. All this makes for a prologue rather than a counter-narrative to the UPA and NDA pre-election stories.

Hands were held and lifted in unison at the Dobbespet rally. The BSP may have had a single message: ‘Mayawati must be made the Prime Minister’; while the Left had its own agenda: ‘Break the centralisation of power in Delhi’ (read: make us a key player in building national policy again). But it would be naïve to react in the manner of the Congress (“the biggest mirage of Indian politics”), or the BJP (“a nautanki”). And certainly the Samajwadi Party’s description of the Third Front as an “opportunistic alliance” limited to “political muscle flexing” was as rich as it was true.

The purpose of the Third Front is to find one’s rightful place in national politics. That positioning, in turn, is determined by the new buzzword (that’s as old as the hills): winnability. With the right glue and seats in the bag, this unsteady creature could notch up a government-making 70-80 Lok Sabha seats. But there are gamblers in the fray. Even if one supposes that these parties will make electoral gains — and that is a big if considering that the Left, for instance, is bound to show a dip in numbers in their pocket boroughs of West Bengal and Kerala — the temptations of being seduced by the national parties are always there. But till that happens, there is a non-Congress, non-BJP entity that has moved from the realm of rumour to something a bit more substantial. Watch that space.