One of the key architects of a non-Congress non-BJP third front in Indian politics, the CPM-led Left Front, for the first time finds itself left out of the frantic attempts by regional parties to cobble together a similar formation ahead of the 2014 general elections.
Unlike the past, this time the initiative is being made by the chief ministers of Odisha, Bihar and West Bengal, who have declared their intention of forming a federal front.
The presence of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee in any such alliance explains the harsh language used by Left leaders against the very idea of any such a formation.
CPM leader Nilotpal Basu said, “Any future understanding with other parties will be based on alternative policies and programmes. Fronts for mere electoral understanding are not sustainable in the long run. Some of those who initiated the idea of a federal front are developing cold feet even before a first step is taken.”
Left leaders are aware of their uncertain political future, given that their current combined strength of 24 in the Lok Sabha is the lowest in 30 years — a far cry from their best-ever tally of 61 after the 2004 elections. Besides, the Left parties are in the opposition in their erstwhile strongholds of Kerala and West Bengal.
Another problem for the Left is that it no longer has leaders like the late Harkishen Singh Surjeet, who had a good rapport with top leaders of regional parties and was the fulcrum in the formation of alternative fronts and even made an aborted attempt to make his colleague the late Jyoti Basu the Prime Minister in 1996.
In the current scenario, Banerjee cleverly jumped at the idea of a non-Congress non-BJP front before a demoralised Left could have initiated such a move.
Ever since she withdrew support from the UPA government in September last year, Banerjee had been laying stress on forging a third front and after several months of isolation, seems to have got something to harp on, but the big question is whether she will be able to sustain the idea.
Apart from Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik and Bihar’s Nitish Kumar, Telugu Desam Party chief N Chandrababu Naidu also appears to have warmed up to Banerjee’s proposal but key players such as Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav are not willing to write off the Left yet.
Yadav’s caution echoes the position being taken by the Left. Its leaders feel any front would be possible only after the election results are out. They refer to the 1996 Lok Sabha results, which led to the formation of the United Front, following the BJP’s failure to prove its majority.
“Every election throws up a different result. Currently, the Left parties are of the view that we will go in for state-specific alliances and review the situation about any alternative after the results are declared,” CPI national secretary D Raja said.
The latest editorial in the CPM weekly, People’s Democracy, indicates the wait-and-watch mood of the party: “A National Political Convention has been convened by the Left Parties on July 1 in the capital. It will discuss and adopt a Declaration containing the approach towards an alternative policy direction for the country. On the basis of this declaration, the Left parties will appeal to all non-Congress non-BJP parties to work for an alternative.”
Will there be any takers?