Leaders of more than a dozen regional parties were headed on Wednesday to a Left-sponsored convention on communalism that is widely seen as a move to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP coalition ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The convention in New Delhi will be attended by Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav, besides leaders of the four Left parties, Jayalalithaa's AIADMK and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) from Odisha.
Late Tuesday, the Nationalist Congress Party, a key ally of the UPA, said it will also attend the meeting, in a development that underscored how the elevation of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi as the BJP's prime ministerial nominee is fast reshaping the country's political landscape.
“I will be attending the convention in defence of secularism on behalf of my party in response to the invitation sent to us,” said NCP leader, DP Tripathi.
He said the NCP shared the concern of organisers of the convention about the attempts by certain parties to communalise the atmosphere in the country.
Though all the parties participating in the convention have made it clear that their intention is to uphold secularism and oppose the communal brand of politics, they do not rule out the beginning of the formation of a Third Front yet again.
“We see this as a beginning of laying down of the foundation for a possible coming together of parties committed to secularism,” said JD(U) leader KC Tyagi.
Addressing a major rally in Azamgarh in Uttar Pradesh on Tuesday, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav predicted neither the Congress nor the BJP would be able to form the next government at the Centre.
The vaccuum can be filled only by a Third Front, he said, adding such a coalition will be firmed up after the polls, likely to be held in April-May.
The Left Front initiative, coming nearly five years after its worst performance in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, is also being seen as an attempt to outsmart its bitter rival in West Bengal, the Trinamool Congress.
The Trinamool, which had walked out of the UPA in September last year, had been hoping to be a part of the non-Congress non-BJP grouping, but both Kumar and Yadav have shown a preference for the Left.
Two of the original proponents of the non-Congress, non-BJP fronts in 1989 and 1996, the DMK and the TDP, will be absent this time. The YSR Congress, headed by YS Jaganmohan Reddy, was keen to attend the convention, but due to differences between the CPI(M) and CPI on the Telangana issue, it was decided not to invite it.