THE SAD STORY OF THE THIRD FRONT : NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

The memory of V.P. Singh’s Rashtriya Morcha became fresh once again when 17 leaders from 14 parties raised their hands and a photograph was clicked. Such photographs used to be published in newspapers way back in those days. That was a different time. Today’s trends are not the same. V. P. Singh was successful in bringing together and uniting many political parties. He carried out a successful andolan (movement) against corruption and created a wave of protest against the Congress. That proved to be a successful attempt of the Third Front. The Congress lost and V. P. Singh became the Prime Minister. In the current picture, the leaders can certainly be seen together, but they have no commitment, no vision, no plan and nor is there unity. In itself this picture has many contradictions and therefore the Third Front appears to be disintegrating even before it is formed.


leadOn 30 October this year there was a stirring in the country’s politics. Delhi’s Talkatora Indoor Stadium was the centre where this stirring took place. Right from the morning, the stadium was full. There was no place to stand inside the stadium. Many former Ministers and current MPs as well were standing because they could not find any place to sit. There were as many people outside the stadium as inside. The media from all over the country was present. About fifty TV channels were continuously covering the activities at the stadium and sending live feed to the studios. Present on the stage were leaders who have the potential to change the politics of the country. It seemed as if there would be some big news. But as one after another the leaders started to give speeches, the sheen and stature of the convention began becoming dim and fading away. At around five o clock in the evening, when the time came to pass a resolution, many leaders had already left. The stadium was almost empty. As was the response from people within the stadium, so it was from those outside. As the evening wore on, the media too put this convention in cold storage, because what was expected from this convention could not and did not happen. Neither could a Third Front be formed and nor did a message emanate that a Third Front could be formed in the future. Actually, this convention became the victim of a lack of direction.
This convention had been organised on behalf of the Left Front. The name of this convention was ‘Convention for People’s Unity and Against Communalism’. It was presided over by Aligarh University’s Professor Irfan Habib, who is a supporter of leftist ideology. A total of 14 political parties participated in this convention and a total of 17 leaders were present on the stage. Several Chief Ministers was invited, but except for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar no others attended, though the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha did send her representative. In the same manner, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik also sent a representative. First, Sitaram Yechury explained that the objective of this convention was to save the country from communalism, because this time there was a grave risk. He was hinting at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. At this convention a resolution was to be passed too. It was first read in English and Hindi, from which many questions arise.
In this resolution, an appeal was made to the people to unite against communalism. But how the people could unite was not mentioned in this resolution. Who are the people spreading communalism, which are the institutions which are spreading this poison, that too was missing in the resolution. How should communalism be fought – there was no map for that either in this resolution. However, it was not being considered that this was an initiative of the Third Front. It was being seen as a preparation for the formation of a a non-Congress and non-BJP group. Communalism was spoken about, but the resolution had neither the name of Narendra Modi nor the name of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. What does this mean? Usually, a discussion on the resolution is held first. It should be assumed that a discussion on the resolution was held among the parties and a decision must have been taken that the resolution should not contain the name of any organisation or leader.
Now, the question naturally arises that to fight the very forces against which you have united, if you bypass mentioning them by name, what is the message that will go to the people? In politics, shooting arrows in the dark doesn’t work. The thing to wonder at is that many of the leaders present at the convention were a part of V.P. Singh’s Third Front. They know full well the kind of fire leaders on the stage used to spew against political opponents.
Out of the big, prominent leaders, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the first to take the mike. He rejected the very need for a Third Front. He not only rejected the need for a Third Front, but also began giving a sermon to Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh, who was also sitting on the stage, on how communalism should be fought. He compared the Muzaffarnagar riots to the Bhagalpur riots and began enumerating his achievements. In the very first speech on the Third Front, he punctured a tyre of the Third Front. The reason for this is obvious and clear : Nitish Kumar does not want to be a part of any Front in which he will not be the unanimous leader.

Throughout his entire speech Nitish Kumar tried to emphasise that he was more secular than the rest of the leaders sitting on the stage. The thing to relish is that he did not mention Narendra Modi’s name even once, just hinted.
When Mulayam Singh’s turn came to speak, he said right at the outset that nobody here was taking any names, so he would not take anyone’s name either. He meant to say that in this convention, nobody is taking the name of Narendra Modi or of the Hindu organisation that is spreading communalism. He related how his party had been fighting communal forces on the ground since 1987. A day earlier he had addressed a very large rally at Azamgarh, so in his speech, there was vigour and conviction. Mulayam Singh Yadav’s political planning is also clear. He sees himself as a Prime Ministerial candidate. Like Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh too will not be a part of any such Front which does not present him as Prime Ministerial candidate. Two days after this Delhi convention, he gave a statement in Lucknow which raised a question on the very justification of the Delhi convention. Mulayam Singh said that if the BJP abandons the issues of Ram Janambhoomi and Kashmir and stops issuing statements against the Muslims, the distance, the gap between them will no longer be there.
In the context of this statement, a senior leader of the Samajwadi Party said that Mulayam Singh has doubts about how many seats the Samajwadi Party will secure in the coming Lok Sabha elections. He thinks that many regional parties are likely to get more seats than the Samajwadi Party and with the Third Front the greatest problem is that it will have many candidates wanting to be the Prime Minister. Along with Nitish Kumar and Naveen Patnaik, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Jayalalitha, and Sharad Yadav also want to be Prime Minister. So if Mulayam Singh does not get many seats he will not be a part of the Third Front. He will give support to the BJP or the Congress and will get himself and his family members included in the Cabinet.

Who will be India’s next Prime Minister is a  question that is rotating in the mind of every person who is interested in politics. Will it be Narendra Modi? Will it be Rahul Gandhi? Or will it be someone else? It is a foregone conclusion that if the Congress Party wins the most seats, then it will be Rahul of the Congress who will be the Prime Minister. If the BJP gets the most seats, Narendra Modi will become the Prime Minister. The reality is that the Congress party is frustrated and desperate. Its credibility has ended. People are annoyed at and fed up with record breaking corruption, inflation and price rise and unemployment. Only if there is some miracle can the Congress emerge as the largest party in the 2014 elections.

Apart from Mulayam Singh Yadav, former Prime Minister and Janata Dal ( Secular) leader H. D. Deve Gowda, JDU’s Sharad Yadav and K.C. Tyagi, former Chief Minister of Assam and chief of the Asom Gana Parishad, Prafulla Kumar Mohanta, Jharkhand’s former Chief Minister and President of the Jharkhand Vikas Party, Babulal Marandi, CPM’s General Secretary Prakash Karat, and the BJD’s Baidyanath Panda were also present at the Delhi convention. In addition, Kamal Morarka, Prakash Ambedkar, M Thambidurai, Ram Gopal Yadav, Amarjit Kaur, D.P. Tripathi, Kshitti Goswami, Biman Bose, S Sudhakar Reddy, Debrata Biswas, Atul Bora were present on the dais. Out of these, several people gave speeches and several could not because of lack of time. The speeches that were made could not be called impressive at the political level. CPI leader A.B. Bardhan raised questions against Mulayam Singh’s Samajwadi Government itself. He raised the issue of compensation to those rendered homeless in the riots in Muzaffarnagar and demanded that arrangements should be made to safely send home people still left in the relief camps. Babulal Marandi turned the subject. He said that more than communalism there are basic problems before the people which need to be combated. While the General Secretary of the CPM attacked the RSS, Assam leader Prafulla Mohanta talked about the problems of Assam. Baidyanath Panda, the BJD leader from Odisha said that along with secularism this country also needs development.
Though all the leaders at this convention put forward their points, nobody spoke clearly about the formation of a Third Front, its need and purpose. And out of those leaders who spoke to TV reporters after the convention was wrapped up, none gave a hopeful statement about the formation of a Third Front. The reply which Sitaram Yechury gave to TV reporters raised a question even over the seriousness of this convention. He said just as there is a ‘doosra’ in cricket, this convention was a ‘doosra’ of politics. In cricket, a doosra is a particular type of delivery by an off-spin bowler meant to deceive the bowler. It is where an off-spinner bowls a ball that spins the other, opposite way than they normally spin it and aims to confuse the batsman into playing a poor shot.
In today’s political conditions, it is necessary for any Morcha or Front that it should have one leader. That too a widely recognised and acceptable leader who can challenge Modi and Rahul Gandhi. This Front must stand up against and oppose the corruption of the Congress and the communalism of the BJP. For this it is necessary that first of all the contradictions and competition between parties should be ended before the elections. It is essential for this Front to have an economic agenda as well. It will have to spell out measures to end inflation and price rise. To attract the youth, there must be a programme too. There should be ideological unity on the issues of land, water, and forests as well. A model of development will have to be presented. How will youth get employment and how will their skills and talents be used by a new Government that will be formed –a framework for this too must be chalked out. How will corruption be fought – the way for doing so must be explained. How will communalism be fought –a blue print for this also will have to be kept before the people. The people of the country are tired of all the preaching of political parties. The India of 2013 wants action. It must be given the confidence that the new Government which will be formed will undertake basic changes. Of course, by uniting against communalism a Front can be formed, but there is no guarantee of success.
Who will be India’s next Prime Minister is a question that is rotating in the mind of every person who is interested in politics. Will it be Narendra Modi? Will it be Rahul Gandhi? Or will it be someone else? It is a foregone conclusion that if the Congress Party wins the most seats, then it will be Rahul of the Congress who will be the Prime Minister. If the BJP gets the most seats, Narendra Modi will become the Prime Minister. The reality is that the Congress party is frustrated and desperate. Its credibility has ended. People are annoyed at and fed up with record breaking corruption, inflation and price rise and unemployment. Only if there is some miracle can the Congress emerge as the largest party in the 2014 elections.
The problem of the main opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, is different. The BJP has no presence at all in several States and by making Narendra Modi its Prime Ministerial candidate, forging an alliance has also become difficult. According to all the survey reports which have come in so far, the Bharatiya Janata Party will win 160 seats and the Congress can win 100 seats. So the question is, who will win the remaining 280 seats? Clearly, these seats will go into the account of the regional parties.
There are two main challenges before the people of the country. The first challenge is to make a Government that is effective and the second is to fight against the danger of communalism. In such a political scenario, there is place for a non-Congress, non-BJP alliance, but who will lead it, who will provide it with leadership? What will be the ideology of the alliance? What will be its economic policy? There are many questions like this to which the answers were not found in the Left organised convention in Delhi. The character of politics in India is like that of a cyclone or tempest which rises from the ocean. It cannot be known when precisely it will rise, from where and which path it will follow and what havoc it will wreak. Will some political cyclone or tempest gather force before 2014? Is there any hope that there will be a cyclonic or even stormy reshuffle or change or realignment in Indian politics? Will any honest and popular leader emerge who will be successful in challenging the Congress and the BJP? Perhaps a sun might rise from the east and dominate the political skyscape of the country.

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