External Affairs Minister and senior Congress leader Pranab Mukherjee has ruled out any support to the Third Front to form a government, not even to keep the BJP out of power. In fact, in an exclusive interview to Hindustan Times at his Kolkata residence in between hectic campaigning, Mukherjee labeled the Third Front as the Holy Roman Empire that is neither Holy, nor Roman or even an Empire.
“A lot is being made out of this grouping, but it will come a cropper. Take a look at the parties that make up the Third Front — the BJD, TDP, JD(U) and the AIADMK and, of course, the Left. Each has its own area of influence, but can they form a government at the Centre?”
The Third Front is emerging as a force to reckon with. Where does Congress stand in that scenario?
I say with confidence there is no future of the Third Front in the elections. It is like the Holy Roman Empire — neither holy, nor Roman and not even an Empire. Congress is fighting the elections to win and we will not pledge support to any front.
But formidable political forces have joined hands to form the Third Front…
The powers of the Left and their partners are restricted to their respective regions. One should not start dreaming about electoral victory based on that. The Congress has ruled the country for 45 years. You just can’t ignore that.
In case of a fractured mandate, what could be the form of a Congress-led coalition?
I don’t rule out any possibility. It’s all about numbers. I am foreseeing the possibility of many parties helping us out in the post election scenario.
Will you seek support of the Left all over again?
That possibility has ended after their inexplicable behaviour of trying to topple the UPA government. They joined hands with the BJP to see the end of the UPA. They have proved that their anti-Congress feeling is far deeper than their hatred for the BJP.
CPM leaders like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Biman Bose have stated that their party will take a decision about support to Congress only after the elections.
Whatever they say, everyone has to abide by the decision of the central leadership. The same happened when Jyoti Basu was turned down by the party when he was offered the post of the Prime Minister. There was no murmur even.
Left leaders lent their support when your name figured during the race for President. They would also like to see you as the PM. Even the BJP leadership doesn’t use any harsh words against you. Are you not the right candidate for the post?
(Smiles) Beyond politics, I enjoy nice relationship with Left leaders. But we are fighting elections with Manmohan Singh as our PM. The leadership has decided that. There is no question of me being in that slot.
Is Rahul Gandhi ready to take up the job ?
Sonia Gandhi has clearly stated earlier: ‘Not now’.
In Bengal, there is consolidation of the anti-Left forces. How will the alliance with Trinamool fare?
Mamata Banerjee is a crowd puller. I addressed joint meetings with her. If crowd response is any indication, the alliance will do well. But in every election there are many factors other than enthusiasm, which determine electoral fortunes. No one can predict a wave. You feel it when it passes.