THE THIRD FRONT : WILL It Sink or Stay Afloat?

After Vishwanath Pratap Singh, whenever there was talk of a Third Front in the country, more than a political alternative, it was an opportunity for taking advantage of the situation. Under the leadership of the Left Parties, the same drill is once again underway, but it is doubtful whether with an obvious lack of a clear policy, lack of an agenda and a far seeing approach, this front will gain the strength which is needed to maintain and protect its very survival.

leadIt was 27 October, 2012. At the Constitution Club in New Delhi, many top leaders of several parties linked with leftist and socialist backgrounds were sitting on the dias. The occasion was the release of socialist writer-journalist Mastram Kapoor’s 9 volume book –‘Loksabha me Lohia’ ( Lohia in the Lok Sabha). This programme was taking place at a time when there were no specific murmurs of a Third Front in the country. At such a time, Mastram Kapoor’s book was being used as an excuse to discuss a non Congress, non BJP alternative. At that time many leaders of the Samajwadi and Leftist parties also passed a resolution on issue based alternative politics. These leaders advised the Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav to take command of this alternative. At this programme, apart from Mulayam Singh Yadav, senior leaders of the Communist Party of India, A B Bardhan, D Raja, Atul Kumar Anjaan, leader of the Telugu Desam Party in the Lok Sabha, Nageshwar Rao, leader of the All India Forward Bloc, Debabrata Biswas and socialist intellectual and current party spokesman of the Aam Aadmi Party, Professor Anand Kumar and Udit Raj, leader of the Justice Party which merged with the Bharatiya Janata Party, also spoke of giving a non Congress, on BJP alternative to the people of the country. No leader of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) was present at the programme. It is noteworthy that six months after this programme, in April 2013, Mastram Kapoor passed away.
However, those people in the country who had listened to the non BJP, non Congress alternative speeches of leftist and socialist leaders at the Constitution Club, twenty-six months before the Lok Sabha elections, must be seeing many changes in the current political scenario. For example, in the programme, leaders like the senior leaders of the Communist Party of India, A B Bardhan and D Raja had appealed to Mulayam Singh Yadav to lead a possible Third Front. Mulayam Singh too had also said at that time that conditions in the country are not good. The promises which the Congress had made to end inequalities among the people had not been fulfilled. A non Congress, non BJP Government was required in the country, therefore, all Leftist parties should come together, because there was only a marginal difference between socialism and communism, which both parties should ignore. At that time, with the aim of moving ahead in the proposed direction, setting up of a Coordination Committee was proposed in Delhi, and which was accepted by all. After his address, citing personal reasons, he took his leave from the programme. Towards the fag end of the programme came Janata Dal United President Sharad Yadav. At that time Sharad Yadav was the NDA Convenor. Sharad Yadav’s entire speech revolved around Lohia. Taunting the possibility of a Third Front, he had said that the chances of it coming existence could not be seen.

In the country’s politics the Third Front is like a tree which does not have strong roots, neither does it have a strong trunk and in the end does not bear any fruit. If there is any fruit at all, it falls prematurely and is destroyed. At present, if any shape can be seen of the nameless Third Front it is that of a front that is more concerned about saving its own political existence than providing a non Congress, non BJP alternative to the country.

It must be remembered that last year the JDU had broken ties with the NDA on the question of the Bharatiya Janata Party naming Narendra Modi as its candidate for the post of Prime Minister. As a result, the same Sharad Yadav is now not only attending Third Front meetings but also sees strong possibilities for it. Now let us talk of Anand Kumar, who is linked to a socialist background and is currently a spokesman for the Aam Aadmi Party. At the release of Mastram Kapoor’s book, ‘Loksabha me Lohia’, he had given a forty five minute speech. At that time, Anand Kumar’s ‘identity’ was purely that of a professor at Jawahar Lal Nehru University. In his speech Anand Kumar had said that politics and movements (andolans) were two different things. Just as people connected with movements could not succeed in politics, in the same manner those connected with politics are not beneficial for movements. Amidst his joining the Aam Aadmi Party and talk of his contesting for the Lok Sabha elections, he must be asked whether his opinions and views about politics and movements are still the same or whether they have changed?
The possibility of a Third Front in Indian politics has continued despite and ever since its use by the Janata Party was a failure. In 1989, with the support of Left parties and the BJP, a National Front was formed, and then in 1996 there was a United Front. However, in the politics at the Centre, both these fronts proved to be not very successful. The politics of a Third Front died even before it emerged. This is the reason why in the

country’s politics, the Third Front remained just a brick somewhere, just a stone somewhere. When its need is felt, a search is made for the remains of the Third Front. The Lok Sabha elections are virtually upon us again, and once again there is talk of a Third Front.
Where Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and others practicing traditional politics are trapped in Congress plots and are fighting for their own survival, there in this whole scenario Leftist parties are trying to steady the boat of secularism from capsizing with a last hope that in the Lok Sabha elections they can somehow create the fear of communal- divisive forces and somehow or the other, persuade four or five passengers to sit in the boat and make a crossing over tricky waters. There is no doubt that this time the Leftist parties boat will capsize, as people like Mulayam Singh Yadav, Nitish Kumar, and Naveen Patnaik (Jayalalitha has already deboarded) who have Prime Ministerial aspirations as part of their ambitious dreams are sitting on board and can change their political commitments at any time.
It cannot be said that it is just coincidence that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has now been openly invited by the humble intellectual Yogendra Yadav who draws inspiration from socialist leader Kishan Patnaik in politics and has become Chanakya to join the Aam Aadmi Party. He told the leaders of the CPI(M) that if they like they can come on deputation to the Aam Aadmi Party. If they are defeated in the elections, they can return to their own party. Obviously, this may be the new political interpretation of the Aam Aadmi Party.
In the last week of February, however, a meeting of parties interested in the formation of a Third Front was held. Those leaders who participated in the meeting, like Prakash Karat assured that they were ready to provide a non Congress, non BJP alternative in the form of a united front. Without taking any names, it was said on behalf of leaders that the numbers in this front would go up from eleven, but the reality is that instead of increasing their numbers are reducing. Earlier too in the meeting of the so called Third Front fourteen parties had participated. This time however, senior leaders of the Biju Janata Dal like Naveen Patnaik and top leaders of the Asom Gana Parishad like Prafulla Kumar Mahanta could not be seen anywhere in this meeting.
On 5 February, eleven political parties closed ranks to put up a non Congress, non BJP front. In this meeting, the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), Forward Bloc, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal United, AIADMK, Janata Dal(S), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, Asom Gana Parishad and Biju Janata Dal participated. Five days after the front was constituted, i.e. on 10 February, a meeting was held in this respect, but no representative from the Samajwadi Party, the Biju Janata Dal and the Asom Gana Parishad participated. It may be that there were reasons for their absence, but like last time, this time too AIADMK chief Jayalalitha did not come herself but sent a representative to Delhi. The surprising thing is that at the very time the Third Front was showing its strength in Delhi, Jayalalitha was issuing her party’s manifesto in Tamil Nadu. It seemed from this attitude of hers that she was not serious at all about any third or fourth front and sure enough, a little later, there was an announcement that she would not go with the Left parties. In such a situation the question arises that a front which has not yet decided on a name or a leader, during and after the coming Lok Sabha elections, on what basis is it talking of forming a non Congress, non BJP Government? On being asked questions related to the post of Prime Minister, they start taking the names of Morarji Desai, Vishwanath Pratap Singh, H. D. Deve Gowda and Inder Kumar Gujral’s and pointing out that they were proposed as and became Prime Minister only after the elections. The conceited leaders in the so called Third Front who profess to attempt making a non Congress, non BJP Government should not forget that the Governments of H. D. Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral could function only because of the largesse of and favours from the Congress.
Right now, leaders of the Third Front are talking of keeping equi-distance from the Congress and the BJP, but leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav, blame and curse the Congress led UPA Government on the one hand and support it on the other. As far as the Janata Dal United is concerned, it was once an ally of the NDA and broke away from the BJP on the issue of Narendra Modi. With the Lok Sabha elections approaching, the JDU tried its utmost to coordinate and work out a tie up with the Congress in Bihar, but when that didn’t work, it is searching for its future in the possibility of a viable Third Front.
Currently, Prakash Karat, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) is working on the task of operationalising this front. By a coincidence, he is a senior leader of the same CPI (M), which in its three and a half decades of rule in West Bengal sank industries to the bottom and compelled the people to migrate for a livelihood and employment. In the West Bengal assembly elections in 2011, the Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee captured power and destroyed the fort the Communist Party of India (Marxist) had held for thirty-four years. In this election, how shameful the defeat was for the leftists can be estimated from the fact that out of the State’s total 294 Assembly seats, the Trinamool Congress won 184 seats. The extent of the defeat of the Left parties in West Bengal did not end here. After some time, in the Panchayat and local bodies elections too, the flag of the Trinamool Congress fluttered aloft. Mamata Banerjee’s victory in West Bengal is also important because it freed the public in West Bengal from its fascination with the Left parties, which the latter had been taking advantage of in some form or another for a long time.
In the path of Mulayam Singh Yadav, who nurtures a strong ambition of becoming Prime Minister, not only will Mayawati create obstacles, but in the changed political and social atmosphere of Uttar Pradesh, it does not seem that Mulayam’s ambition and desire will be fulfilled. In Tamil Nadu the AIADMK had come into existence after breaking away from the DMK. Since then, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi have been strong opponents of each other in the State. The Leftist parties who are singing the tune of the Third Front were supporting the UPA 1 Government from outside. They withdrew their support to the Manmohan Singh Government only because of the issue of the nuclear agreement with America. At that time, the Samajwadi party had been a life saver for the Manmohan Singh Government.
It is noteworthy that in the 15th Lok Sabha, the 11 parties with which the Third Front was initially formed had less than a hundred seats. In the new Lok Sabha, even if their number reaches a hundred (of which there is little hope), their claim of forming a Government appears ridiculous. In fact, there is not just one but many contradictions in the Third Front. For instance, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party being a part of the same Third Front at the same time is not possible. Similarly, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal United can never be together.
As far as the CPI (M) General Secretary, Prakash Karat, is concerned, in April 2013 had stated in a meeting at Agartala that forming a Third Front at the Centre is not easy, because the various political parties keep changing their stand. Even otherwise, the Third Front can be seen to have a lot of contradictions from the statements of Prakash Karat. Not only this, after the unexpected victory of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Delhi Assembly elections, he openly and fulsomely praised Arvind Kejriwal. He had even advised CPI (M) party leaders to learn from the Aam Aadmi Party. Keeping the Lok Sabha elections in view and the ongoing drill of forming a viable Third Front, while on the one hand the leftists in parliamentary politics are, along with the socialists, showing the dream of a new political alternative to the country, on the other hand, a large section of leftist intellectuals have from the outset been dismissing of the possibility of a Third Front.
In fact, in the country’s politics the Third Front is like a tree which does not have strong roots, neither does it have a strong trunk and in the end does not bear any fruit. If there is any fruit at all, it falls prematurely and is destroyed. At present, if any shape can be seen of the nameless Third Front it is that of a front that is more concerned about saving its own political existence than providing a non Congress, non BJP alternative to the country. It is this worry that is troubling the senior leaders in their respective States as well — of the Left parties in West Bengal, the Janata Dal United in Bihar, the Samajwadi Party Uttar in Pradesh, and the Asom Gana Parishad in Assam.
However, the coming Lok Sabha elections results will not only be startling, but 2014 will be remembered for many other reasons too. In the next few months before the elections many political equations will be formed and many will be destroyed – this cannot be denied. In the drill that the Leftist parties leaders and those of socialist parties are carrying out for the Third Front, they should not forget that in the country’s politics, the possibility and power of the Third Front have always been weak. As such, there is an apprehension that in the coming Lok Sabha elections the Third Front will prove to be utterly unsuccessful and if that happens, then in the corridors of politics, it will become forever nameless.

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