"Widows Club", that’s how a Congress leader described the meeting of the seven regional parties at Hyderabad, which decided to forge a third front on Wednesday.
Having lost power in their respective states and facing corruption and other charges, the leaders of these parties have realised that a national level grouping would be more helpful in fending off the persecution at home as well as bargaining for better clout in the Centre.
Telugu Desam Supremo N Chandrababu Naidu, who first took the initiative in this regard nearly a year ago, is still yearning to be kingmaker that he was in the short lived United Front and installed Deve Gowda and thereafter Inder Kumar Gujaral as Prime Ministers. Even during the NDA regime, he with his 28 MPs remained the crucial prop for the Vajpayee government.
With the elections less than two years away, Naidu is preparing the ground not only for a comeback in Andhra Pradesh but also to emerge as a key player in the national political scene.
Naidu calculates that the third front will gather more strength as more parties will join in coming weeks and left parties ultimately become the driving force for the grouping, making the Third front a serious rival to both UPA and NDA. Eager to rope in the left to his third front, Naidu vigorously argued the need for not supporting the NDA presidential candidate. While the left has decided to support UPA candidate, Naidu wants the third front to field its own candidate or else abstain from voting. These parties have a voting strength of 103916 in the electoral college of 1098882 for the presidential poll, accounting for 9 per cent of the votes.
In Andhra Pradesh, Naidu has already forged an alliance with CPM, the dominant between the two left parties. The CPM, parted ways with electoral alliance partner Congress accusing the later of various omissions and commissions and pursuing anti-people policies. The CPI is also getting ready to join the ranks with TDP and CPM, severing links with the Congress.
Besides the Congress, Naidu is facing opposition from one branch of party founder N T Ramarao`s family led by his daughter N Purandareswari, presently Union Minister of state for HRD. Evenas as Naidu is trying to stage a comeback encashing on the deceased leaders(who was immensely popular) name, Purandareswari reminded the people of Naidu`s betrayal of Ramarao and how the late leader died a bitter man.
People close to Naidu say that the third front euphoria might help him divert attention from the opposition as well as internal squabbles in the TDP and create an impression that the party was on a comeback trail in the state as well as in the Center.