The Third Front — now synonymous with general elections — moved closer to reality on Tuesday, with 11 Left and “secular” parties offering themselves as an alternative to the Congress and BJP while side-stepping the contentious leadership issue.
The leaders of the proposed grouping, which has several prime ministerial aspirants, vowed to defeat the Congress and BJP and establish “a secular order which recognises the country’s plurality and diversity”.
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Third Front formulations have more misses than hits to their credit as far as running a government is concerned. Every time non-Congress and non-BJP parties — in various combinations — have come to power, the government hasn’t lasted more than two years. Ahead of the last Lok Sabha elections, United Nationalist Progressive Alliance was formed but it failed to take off.
Tuesday’s announcement was made after an hour-long meeting here of the leaders of Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party, AIADMK, JD(Secular), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and four Left parties.
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“Issues concerning the prime ministerial candidate will be taken up in the post-poll scenario”, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, who has been piloting the move, told mediapersons in an indication that the road ahead could be bumpy.
“It is an effort at pooling resources of like-minded parties and does not necessarily incorporate seat-sharing arrangements,” Karat said.
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He accused the Congress of misrule, massive corruption and failing to check prices. The BJP was no different, he said. Its record of corruption at the Centre and in states was as bad as or worse than the Congress. “On top of it, it poses a challenge to the very secular edifice of our state and society”.
Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Mulayam Singh Yadav – who has on a number of occasions hinted at his PM ambitions — downplayed the issue saying earlier Third Front governments had selected PM candidates — from Morarji Desai to VP Singh, HD Deve Gowda to IK Gujral --unanimously.
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Regional satraps that are part of the combine do not encroach upon each other’s political territory but there are inherent contradictions.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, JD-U chief Sharad Yadav, CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat, CPI leader AB Bardhan, JD(S) leader HD Deve Gowda and AIADMK leader M Thambi Durai during the third front meeting in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)
There are just too many PM aspirants — Mulayam, JD (U) leader and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar and Tamil Nadu CM and AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa — to name a few. Except the Left parties and SP, all others have partnered the BJP in the past.
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The parties, brought together by their anti-Congress and anti-BJP stand, have different views on various national issues.
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The meeting, attended among others by Nitish Kumar and former PM HD Deve Gowda, had some notable absentees as well. No one from the Biju Janata Dal or the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) was present, giving rise to speculation that the two could be keeping their options open.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav , JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda, Janata Dal(U) chief Sharad Yadav and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar during the third front meeting in New Delhi. (PTI Photo)
Karat said BJD leader and Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik had some pressing engagements, while AGP leader Prafulla Mahanta’s mother was ill. “But both these leaders have extended full support,” he said.
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Significantly, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) spokesman DP Tripathi hailed the meeting as a “positive and a welcome move”.
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