Debating India

STATE ELECTIONS 2006

The third (divided) front

Friday 12 May 2006, by GOPINATH*Vrinda, MAJUMDAR*Ananda

New Delhi, May 11 : The Assembly elections in Assam were supposed to a test case for the new ?third front’. As the day wore on, and the Congress-led forces shifted uneasily at what at one stage looked like a hung Assembly before breathing easy, the non-Congress, non-BJP alternative lay aborted.

Pulled at varied directions by as varied a group of leaders, the Samajwadi Party-sponsored ?national alternative’ with Chandrababu Naidu’s TDP, Farooq Abdullah’s National Conference, O P Chautala’s INLD and Prafulla Mahanta’s Asom Gana Parishad faction (AGP-P) did not get the support of the Left, which had an ??understanding’’ with Brindaban Goswami’s AGP.

In fact, even in West Bengal, the Left not only threw SP’s demand for 12 seats straight out the window, it instead gave two seats to the party’s bitter rival RJD, which won in Barabazaar.

In Assam, the SP-backed Mahanta faction of the AGP managed a sum total of one seat in the 126-member House. An upbeat Amar Singh nevertheless said the relation between SP and the Left has not altered: ??We share similar views and we are with the Left to form a non-Congress, non-BJP alliance.’’

But CPI’s D Raja hit the nail on its head: ??The Third Front is not a readymade front that can be assembled anytime; it is not an electoral front but has to emerge through a people’s movement based on common policies and programmes. No party can claim to be part of the Third Front as it is yet to evolve.’’ He said an alternative “is already emerging in UP where CPI has supported V P Singh’s Kisan Manch.’’ The former prime minister’s recently revived Jan Morcha is yet another alternative pitted against the UP chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav in the state.

Meanwhile, even within the Left-AGP patchwork there was serious fissure till this afternoon, when a hung Assembly looked a possibility - the Left were anxious about a last-minute patch-up between the AGP and BJP, with a shot at the hot seat. There has been a niggling lack of trust between the two, and they have different viewpoints on the Illegal Migrants (Determination by Tribunals) Act, with the Left parties backing the Act as it is provisioned in the Common Minimum Programme, while the AGP opposed it.

These have been troubled times for the third front for other reasons. One major constituent of the front was Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal(S). The developments in Karnataka, with JD(S) joining hands with the BJP, showed why he can no longer be part of a non-Congress, non-BJP political formation. Incidentally, Gowda had also been a part of the LDF in Kerala.

ananda.majumdar@expressindia.com

See online : The Indian Express