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Third on a wire

The rise of regional participation does not mean that state players can present themselves as a serious alternative to the UPA or the NDA.

india Updated: Jun 07, 2007 23:49 IST

Apocrypha has it that the return of the Third Front in national politics is imminent. Considering that there have been rumours of a resurrection since the ‘original’ coalition of non-Congress, non-BJP parties under the banner of the ‘United Front’ splintered into pieces in 1998, only hardcore believers have been holding their breath for its second coming. But the faithful were nudged awake this week with the news from Hyderabad that the return of the Third Front is round the corner. Regional welterweights including the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Telugu Desam Party, the Samajwadi Party, the Asom Gana Parishad, the Indian National Lok Dal, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam have sent out the missive that they are planning to come together to form a “viable national alternative to the Congress and the BJP”.

It doesn’t take a political pundit to notice what is common to the leaders who were huddled in a three-hour meeting of regional parties at former NDA ally N Chandrababu Naidu’s residence in Hyderabad: they are all out of power and restless about being out of power. So such a grouping of parties that have tasted the bitter fruits (their sweetness having been forgotten) of allying themselves with either the Congress or the BJP — or, at different moments, both — and now want to plough their own ‘independent furrow’ is laudable as well as practical. More important, coalition politics can only be richer when there is a conglomeration providing an alternative to the voter.

But the reason why we would advise against the Third Front faithful getting too excited about the bugle blast from Hyderabad is that there is no real glue that binds it together — apart, that is, from that old anti-Congress, anti-BJP mantra. The rise of regional participation does not mean that state players can present themselves as a serious alternative to the UPA or the NDA. This is something that stronger entities such as the CPI(M) and the recently-empowered BSP know — thereby pointing to their disassociation from the latest experiment. As is wont with coalitions of the unwilling, the planned Third Front is loud and clear about what it doesn’t want — UPA-style economics, the India-US nuclear deal, BJP-style communal politics, to name a few in a list of grouses that will surely grow longer. The problem is that it is muffled and foggy about what it wants. For the time being, it looks restricted to coming up with a name for a Presidential candidate.