Recently leaders of some eight regional parties met in Hyderabad and announced the formation of a ‘Third Front’ – as an alternative to Congress and BJP. All the leaders had one thing in common – all are out of power in their respective states and desperately trying to shore up their position. Addressing the press after the meeting, Jayalalithaa said that the Third Front is a necessity. Yes it is! But for whom? Third Front is an idea that these out of power power-hungry leaders need to keep themselves relevant either at the state or Delhi and get them attention in the national media, which can then be used in the states to shore up their position. Look at the context. The very fact that this idea of TF is floated two years before the elections is strange! Two years is a long time in politics and parties normally would not want to reveal their cards till the eleventh hour. So the very fact that this is announced now under the garb of discussions on the Presidential polls, suggest that this is more an attempt to protect individuals like Jayalalithaa, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chandrababu Naidu – all of whom are facing/or fear vendetta against in their respective states by their sworn enemies who are in power. The more important question is whether the Third Front is viable or feasible. And my answer to this is an unequivocal NO! Lets see why I think so:
To begin with the Third Front (as they call themselves, which by itself I think is presumptuous) lacks an agenda. Anti-Congress or Anti-BJP can no longer be an agenda. Anti-Congress may have worked post-emergency or post-Bofors for obvious reasons. Similarly anti-BJP would have worked post Ayodhya. But BJP has since then been in power for five years at the head of a coalition and has shown that it says one thing and does another. Likewise I do not think dynastic politics or Sonia’s nationality can be an electoral issue today. But for some variations in terms of degree and in pace, the policies of BJP and Congress while in Government have been the same.
The TF leaders themselves have not found any common ground. At Hyderabad, they took the favorite punching bag for any political party today – the Indo-US nuke deal- and fell back on the oft repeated rhetoric of “economic policies not favoring the common man”, to show some sense of an unified agenda. The TF does not have a name, a leader or an agenda!
Even historically, the TF idea is not a success. Though formed on platform of anti-congress and anti-BJP the TF could not form government without the support form either of the two. The National Front Government was supported by BJP and the United Front Government by Congress. And both these governments could last their full term. Ironically they were at the mercy of Congress or BJP!
For those who do not believe in history, even the current experiment is sure to fail. Why?
The most important constituent of any TF idea should be the Left and it has not expressed any views on the TF so far. But let me optimistic and assume that the Left will join the TF at a later date. I will consider the performance of three parties to be crucial in the ultimate success of TF – AIADMK, TDP & SP- an observation arrived purely based on numbers. Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh have some 160 LS seats among them. It seems possible that AIADMK may have the advantage of anti-incumbency which has always been a feature of TN politics recently. This would leave me to believe on an optimistic basis somewhere between 25-30 seats. I am not very familiar with Andhra politics but would be daring enough to give TDP a same number – another 25-30 seats. It is evident that SP is not in the best of position in UP and a possible tacit understanding between BSP and Congress will hurt it further. Optimistically I would give it 30 to 35 seats. Now left is the Left. Kerala is another state where anti-incumbency comes to play and post-Nandigram the opposition in West Bengal have a more coherent platform than just anti-Left. I will assume some 65 seats for the Left Front in WB and Kerala. And some 30 seats to the various small parties that might end up joining the TF. So it works out to a grand total 180 -200 seats on an optimistic note. And the half way mark in LS is 272. So purely in terms of numbers too, the TF idea will not be viable and would require the support of either the Congress or BJP. Left in that case might support a Congress government rather than a TF government. And then, who will head the Government. India today has moved beyond the Deve Gowdas and Gujrals. Add to this the kind of personalities involved. Chandrababu Naidu! Mulayam Singh Yadav!! Jayalalithaa!!!!! Each of them will not want to play second fiddle to any other.
So is very clear. The TF is doomed to fail!