Will they, won’t they? | india | Hindustan Times
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Will they, won’t they?

In a possible rerun of 1996, the Congress may be forced to support a third front from outside. But such a government, as history has shown, will be inherently unstable and may not last five years. Arnab Mitra examines.

india Updated: Apr 01, 2009 12:50 IST

There’s a buzz in Delhi’s political circles about the possibility of a Third Front government coming to power in May.

The logic is based on back-of-the-envelope projections about the seats tallies of individual parties.

Tamil Nadu has traditionally swung between giving overwhelming mandates alternatively to the DMK and the AIADMK.

By that logic, it could be the turn of Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK to win the bulk of the 40 seats from Tamil Nadu, if it manages to win a majority of DMK’s allies.

Ditto for Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh, which sends 42 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

Then, the Left Front — the pivot around which the entire Third Front experiment hinges — is expected to come down substantially from its 2004 tally of 59 seats, but should have 40 or 50 MPs in the new House, even in a worst-case scenario.

And if, as expected, Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party wins 40 or 50 of Uttar Pradesh’s 80 seats — and she does formally join the Third Front after the polls, provided, of course, she is anointed its leader — the Third Front will enter the post-poll phase with 140-150 MPs, making it a magnet for the smaller parties in the UPA and the NDA.

In such an eventuality — a rerun of 1996, as it were — the Congress may be forced to support it from the outside. But such a government, as history has shown, will be inherently unstable and may not last five years.

A caveat: The Congress may well accept Jayalalithaa’s offer of an alliance if the UPA comes within striking distance of power. Equally, both she and Naidu could also throw in their lot with the NDA if it wins 220-230 seats.