The Third Front : A Myth In Indian Politics

Given that the Left parties are major players in this alliance, their policies are bound to have shades of Marxism. This is a cause for concern as industrial growth will be sluggish and development will suffer. And, to make it worse the Front does not seem to have a clue on matters of defense and foreign affairs yet…The federal front will be a coalition of contradictions. It is unlikely that the regional parties will agree on most issues… The Third Front is about achieving personal ambitions and settling scores and not about serious progress…


a-myth-in-indian-politicsThe favourite pastime in Indian politics has been the talk of a ‘Third Front’ and the feasibility of such fronts coming to power in Delhi. The Third Front Governments of the past have failed to inspire with a perennial question-mark over its longevity and lack of concrete policies. In the event, such an alliance remains stitched up in May 2014; I don’t see the outcome to be any different. Theoretically, the coming together of non-Congress, non-BJP parties with a secular tag has been christened as the ‘Third Front’ or known by other similar fancy names. However, this is not completely true as the poll arithmetic in our country will never allow such a front to form the Government without the outside support of one of the two national parties.
Election year or not, the emergence of strong regional parties and the meeting of their leaders have always spurred discussions on alternate poll strategies. This time the idea was initially floated by Mamata Banerjee when she pulled the Trinamool Congrees out of the UPA with a call for like-minded parties to form a ‘Federal Front’ to protect the federal structure of our country. The idea gained steam when Nitish Kumar pulled out of the NDA and the BJD announced to go alone in Odisha. More recently, the plan took shape when Jayalalitha entered into an alliance with the Left parties in Tamil Nadu. But already, that plan has come apart.
The fragmentation of Indian politics has been one of the widely researched topics; scholars have used parameters like the increase in the number of parties in the Lok Sabha over the years and the change in vote share per cent to clearly illustrate this phenomenon. Interestingly, a common theme across all of the literature on this subject is that the fragmentation of Indian parties and regional alliances is a threat to the stability of the Government. It was pointed out that such Governments will not be able to take hard and unpopular decision in the time of crises and implement tough policies. The long-term survival of the Government becomes more important than providing effective governance.
World history shows us that behind every successful Government there is a strong leader. The biggest challenge of a hypothetical Federal Front would be to identify that leader. In 1996, under dramatic circumstances, Deve Gowda emerged as a consensus candidate only to be replaced by I.K.Gujral soon. I do not see such a compromise candidate coming up this time. Every time the topic of the prime ministerial candidate surfaces, the parties are quick to avoid any talk on that matter. AIADMK is campaigning with the ‘Jaya for PM’ slogan and the SP claims it cannot be ignored. One of the biggest reasons for the national aspirations of these regional parties is that it gives their leaders’ a fair shot at the top job. With many such players in 2014, it is impossible to pick a winner from this playing field.
The federal front will be a coalition of contradictions. It is unlikely that the regional parties will agree on most issues. The only goal that seems to bind these parties together is a desire to govern beyond their respective State boundaries and to keep the BJP out. Going by the track record of the State Governments run by the parties in question, a tendency to dole out freebies is apparent. So, it can be fairly assumed that this front will unveil an ultra populist agenda loaded with sops, waivers and subsidies without considering the larger macroeconomic implications of the same. Further, given that the Left parties are major players in this alliance, their policies are bound to have shades of Marxism. This is a cause for concern as industrial growth will be sluggish and development will suffer. And, to make it worse the front does not seem to have a clue on matters of defense and foreign affairs yet.
President Pranab Mukherjee knows best, the difficulty of running a coalition. In his erstwhile role as the troubleshooter-in-chief of the UPA Government he spent more time shuttling to State capitals to pacify sulking regional alliance partners on petty issues rather than pushing reforms from his South Block office. As if drawing from his personal experiences, during his address to the nation on the of the Republic day he stressed on the need to have a stable Government forIndia to move forward. He said that the youth should be given a chance and this cannot happen if India does not get a stable Government. He further emphasised, “A fractured Government, hostage to whimsical opportunists is always an unhappy eventuality and in 2014, it could be catastrophic.” He called for people to introspect and vote with responsibility. The President closed by stating that it is most important for the new Government to have an ‘undiluted commitment towards stability, honesty and development of India.’
The Third Front is a failed idea and futile attempt. It is and will always remain as the glorious mirage of Indian politics. It is about achieving personal ambitions and settling scores and not about serious progress. In addition to change, people should also consider the stability of the next Government, when they vote. I urge everyone to analyse on how a vote for a regional party could influence Government formation at the center and eventually affect the much-needed change process.
– The Indian Republic

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