In the end, the Third Front — a hazy coalition of regional parties from day one — was all but a stillborn baby, which the Left midwifed in a botched-up operation.
As the results poured in, it was evident that the mandate was not just against the Left, but also hostile to regional parties, including Third Front movers like the Janata Dal (Secular), which appeared to be winning just three seats, and the Telegu Desam Party, which appeared to be winning six seats. The AIADMK fared equally bad with nine.
About 714 million voters of India’s 1.1 billion people — twice the population of the US — did not want a coalition with no critical mass and common programme to steer the country.
Even as the ballots were being opened for counting on Saturday morning, it was believed that the comrades and their loosely held allies could still play a role.
Two days ago, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat had told HT: “No government formation would be possible without the Third Front.”
The results turned this claim on its head.
In democracy, surprises can be nasty. The CPM conceded defeat, ironically, amid drumbeats by a mob of frenzied Congress supporters that nearly took over the Red citadel of AKG Bhawan.
Karat told reporters: “The elections have resulted in a victory for the Congress and its allies who will be in a position to form the new government. We along with our allies perform the role of the Opposition.” CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan too said that the Third Front should sit in the Opposition.
“I think the dynamics of the political situation are that too much of centralisation leads to regionalisation, as in the Indira Gandhi era,” political commentator and sociologist Imtiaz Ahmed told HT. “Now, too much of regionalism has resulted in the electorate moving back to single party rule.”
Nobody has been keener on a Third Front government than Karat, who hoped against hope that India’s electorate would share his ideological straightjacket of a non-Congress, non-BJP government.
However, except the Left, none of the so-called Third Front allies was hopeful of what they would be able to achieve.