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State of Polity:THIRD FRONT POT BOILING, by T.D. Jagadesan, Print E-mail


New Delhi, 20 July 2006

State of Polity


By T.D. Jagadesan

There is a visible churning amongst the regional parties with the leaders sensing a space for a third alternative. The Left parties are in the middle of the effort, with CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat convinced about the need for a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative at the Centre. This is the real shift in Indian polity since the UPA Government took over.

The 75th birth day celebrations of former Prime Minister V.P. Singh was a major political event in the Union Capital as, for one, it clearly demonstrated the willingness of some regional parties to come together on the same platform and renew long broken contacts.

The function at his residence, for instance, was attended by the Nationalist Congress Party and the Lok Janshakti Party from the UPA, along with the Left parties whose members were present in full strength. The subsequent dinner hosted for Singh by the UPA ally and Minister, Ram Vilas Paswan, was attended by the Congress as well, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh witnessing the cutting of the cake. But while the RJD was present, Mulayam Singh Yadav and his party stayed away, leading to large-scale speculation that the Jan Morcha and the new allies might keep the UP Chieftain out.

This is unlikely, and for some, it might just constitute a degree of wishful thinking.  The Third Front pot is now on the fire and after it boils over, the residue will be the real substance and the nucleus of the third alternative.  Karat has shown more wisdom than many others by meeting Mulayam Singh and making it clear that the Left and the Samajwadi Party, along with others’ of course, had begun the process of bringing a third alternative together.

It is true that the antics of some of the top leaders of the Samajwadi Party invite disdain, in the urban centres of power.  But it is also true that today in UP, the most aggressive campaign for secularism is carried out by the Samajwadi workers, whose names are not known and whose faces are not familiar to political watchers in Delhi, but who really are the backbone of the Party.

Except for a couple of Muslim clerics, the Party is representative of the caste and religious character of UP; it has a strong organization, and the workers are still committed to countering the communal forces, despite regular reports of a “Secret Understanding” between Mulayam Singh and the BJP.  The CPM leader, Harkishan Singh Surjeet had told the media recently that it was easy to drop Mulayam Singh, but it would be very foolish to do so as this one action would break a party.

The Jan Morcha has the goodwill at the ground level.  But in a closely contested election it is not just the goodwill that counts but the ability to mop it up in the form of votes.  The Morcha does not have the organization as yet and will have too many foes to contend with on the ground to be able to get the much-needed head start.  V.P. Singh has been campaigning vigorously for the farmers in UP, and it is a constituency that has responded warmly to this initiative.  But whether the farmers will vote along caste lines will determine the success of this strategy.

It is an accepted fact that there will be no third alternative without the Left parties which will have to play the role of a catalyst to bring it together.  Karat has made it known openly that the process is on, and the effort of his party along with others in the Left Front will be to work with the regional parties for a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.

The tentative moves to bring together political groups on issues have met with some good results.  In the last round of Assembly elections, the Left was able to contest elections in Assam, for instance, with the NCP and the Samajwadi Party and a section of the AGP on board.  In the protest against the fuel hike, it was again able to bring the Samajwadi Party and others together.

Telugu Desam Party (TDP) supremo Chandrababu Naidu has announced his decision to part ways with the BJP.  The AIADMK is making the right noises as well, with Jayalalitha immediately applauding the CPM General Secretary’s call for a third alternative.

It is true that to some extent the players are the same and politics does not have a retirement age.  It can only be hoped that they all learn from their mistakes.  The third front in the form of the National Front, and again the United Front suffered from an overflow of egos leading to constant bickering and factionalism.  It was also under tremendous attack from the more organized, and the more powerful Congress and the BJP with most of the regional leaders at the time having little experience of national politics.

This is no longer the case, and since the collapse of the United Front, most of them have gained experience by working in coalitions, led by the BJP and now by the Congress. This has been sufficient to make them get back together again for a third alternative, and the political situation is now fluid with amoeba-like movements that will eventually consolidate into an acceptable whole.

It is important, however, for the players to be cautious and not be in a tearing hurry to cobble together something that will not last the test of time. At the same time, it is imperative that patience is not extolled as a virtue as delays will take away the space that is currently available for a third formation.

A common minimum programme, an understanding over the Prime Ministerial candidate or at least certain guidelines to make the choice easier as and when the time comes, a willingness to give and not jut to take are some of the basics that have to be settled before the Left and other parties take the plunge.

To conclude, by the time this appears in print it is possible that the political parties and their leaders may change sides or shades for better or perhaps for the worse.  As the saying goes in politics there are no permanent friends or permanent enemies. What counts most is the exigencies of the day facing them. What a fall!---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)


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