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The Third Front Effect

The formal launch of the Third Front at Dobbespet near Bangalore on Wednesday sparked off reactions across the political spectrum.

india Updated: Mar 13, 2009 00:24 IST
Shekhar Iyer and Saroj Nagi

The formal launch of the Third Front at Dobbespet near Bangalore on Wednesday sparked off reactions across the political spectrum. Both Congress and BJP admitted they were modifying their strategy, and some of the Congress’s allies acknowledged that the Front could play a key role in government formation.

While the Congress refused to spell out the details of the changes it was making and restricted itself to merely attacking the Third Front, the BJP made its new strategy clear.

“History shows that every attempt to resurrect the phantom of the Third Front ends up strengthening the BJP,” said Manish Tiwari, Congress spokesperson, recalling the chaos that resulted when similar formations ruled the country in 1977, 1989 and 1996.

Taking into account the Front’s rise, the BJP has nontheless divided the country into four categories of states, but will focus on the first two.

The first ‘A’ category states are those where the party is in direct conflict with the Congress — Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Delhi and Rajasthan. The second ‘B’ are those where it shares the non-Congress space with other parties — the Telegu Desam, for instance, in Andhra Pradesh, or the Biju Janata Dal in Orissa.

“Our goal is to ensure the BJP gets enough seats in Orissa and Andhra, where assembly polls are also being held, so that it holds the key to the next non-Congress governments in both states,” said Arun Jaitley, the BJP’s chief strategist.

The party has also decided to exercise restraint in its attacks on those among the Front constituents whom it characterises as ‘ideologically free’ — bereft of vituperative anti-BJP baggage. And that includes the BJD, despite the recent betrayal.

The BJP’s ‘C’ states are those where two sworn enemies are battling each other — be it the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradesh, or the DMK and AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, while the ‘D’ states are those where the BJP itself is marginal, like Kerala.

“If we do well in the ‘B’ states, we can become relevant in the ‘C’ states too,” he said.

“The UPA cannot ignore the Third Front,” said Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar, as he launched his own campaign from Madha, his new constituency. “The two will have to come together after the elections.”

“The Third Front is an opportunistic alliance,” said SP general secretary Amar Singh. “No one can form a secular government at the centre without Sonia Gandhi.”