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The return of Third Front

india Updated: Mar 13, 2009 02:20 IST
Nandini R Iyer
Nandini R Iyer
Hindustan Times
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Leaders from 10 political parties with strongholds in six Indian states came together before a five lakh-strong crowd to launch the Third Front, an alternative to the Congress and the BJP and their respective coalitions.

The launch was conducted with much fanfare in Dobbespet about 70 km from Bangalore, from a stage carrying pictures of everyone from Mahatma Gandhi and Jai Prakash Narayan to Tipu Sultan and Mother Teresa.

The Third Front is projecting itself as an alliance of “Left democratic secular forces”.

<b1>Its efforts gained momentum on Wednesday when BSP chief Mayawati — who had been blowing hot and cold so far — suddenly agreed to send her second-in-command and BSP member of Parliament, Satish Mishra, to the rally. The Haryana Janhit Congress, led by Bhajan Lal’s son Kuldeep Bishnoi, also joined the front on Wednesday.

The Biju Janata Dal, however, did not attend the rally or express support for the front.

Those present included CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI general secretary AB Bardhan, Janata Dal (Secular) president HD Deve Gowda, Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu, TRS chief K Chandrashekhar Rao’s son T Rama Rao, Rajya Sabha MP V Maitreyan representing AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa, and Bishnoi.

“This is a historic get-together of all democratic, secular and Left parties in the country to declare that we are all coming together to constitute a third force in this country,” said Karat.

Gowda said, “My aim is to bring the Third Front to power. I am not aspiring for the Delhi gaddi.” The leaders are meeting again on March 15 — Mayawati has invited them to her Gurdwara Rakabganj Road residence for dinner. While officially the invite is being projected as a Grah Pravesh (housewarming) ceremony, sources indicated discussions on the front’s prime ministerial candidate would take place. March 15 is also the birth anniversary of Mayawati’s mentor, Kanshi Ram.

It may be noted that all the parties which have come together to create an alternative to the Congress and the BJP are primarily confined to specific geographic territories and none of them can really add much to anyone else’s vote.

Even seat-sharing arrangements — normally a key component in political alliances — have been left to parties to work out on a state-level basis.

At the rally, the speeches by Third Front leaders were a mix of Congress/BJP bashing and some references to individual party agendas.

Karat, for example, described the Third Front as against communalism and a platform for oppressed forces, but also drew attention to farmer suicides, unemployment, inflation and malnutrition.

“This government has been unable to tackle the present economic crisis,” he said targeting the Congress, but did not spare the BJP when he launched an attack on communalism and added, “We will not allow Karnataka to become another Gujarat.”