File photo Photograph:( Zee News Network )
There has never been a single Third Front. There have been many avatars of Third Fronts. The genesis of National Front, United Front or Third Front lies in anti-Congress Grand Alliance which was conceived by Ram Manohar Lohia after Jawaharlal Nehru passed away. In 1967, all non-Congress parties came together, and they were able to form the governments in a number of states for the first time. It is from this success, emanated the confidence of a non-Congress government at the Centre.
Since then, time to time, regional parties came together to make government against Congress. In the 1990s, regional parties got realigned on the basis of ideology and personal relationship. The first born was NDA, it was succeeded by the UPA when the Congress realised that it alone cannot be a match against well aligned NDA.
Off late, many politicians have started to moot the idea of floating a Grand Alliance to contain BJP electorally as it has replaced the Congress from the pole position in the Indian politics.
The strategists are excited about the idea of SP-BSP joining hands for two by-elections in Uttar Pradesh. But the pact, sugar-coated by the ideal of secular politics, cannot undermine the barter which has taken place between two parties. For instance, Mayawati will be able to go to Rajya Sabha on SP’s support. Some people are also excited about the fact that Mayawati has taken a leaf out of Kanshiram’s playbook, but they should pause and think as to what could have happened to Mayawati when SP goons attacked her in the guest house.
Apart from Mayawati, West Bengal’s Chief Minister Mamata Banerji and Telangana’s Chief Minister Chandrashekhar Rao are openly mooting the idea to form a Grand Front. Mamata even blamed Congress for not creating an umbrella alliance for the North East elections. The fact of the matter is that can the Third Front be an alternative. Will it have a different ideology? Will it be supported by the Congress? Who will be the prime ministerial candidate? I suppose these questions are irrelevant.
Today’s idea of the Third Front is rooted in the preservation of power and nothing else. Unlike 1967 and 1977, it is not rooted in the idea against total hegemony and emergency. It does not have a noble purpose. It is, for this reason, the experiment of 1996-98 (United Front) was a total failure. It was rooted in the idea of keeping one party out.
Today, Congress is in position to be a pole around which small parties can come together. It is so small both organisationally and electorally that regional parties have started to treat Congress as its equal.
On the other hand, the desire of regional parties for a Front also stems from BJP’s expansion in newer areas where they themselves have remained sole challenger to the erstwhile Congress. Over the last four years, Indian politics has become BJP vs rest. Non-Congress front in past has seen six prime ministers. All put together, such Fronts remained in power for more than 6 years but it gave 6 prime ministers. It is an unappetizing scenario. With Modi in the saddle, the Third Front will remain a pot of contradictions.
Will the Left side with the Trinamool Congress in 2019 and will Mayawati continue the arrangement when the nation goes to the polls? The answer is that there are too many ifs and buts about it and none of them will be able to stand as credible alternatives. Last in the question is, Chandrashekhar Rao who wants to emulate NT Rama Rao under whom the National Front came to power, and VP Singh became the Prime Minister. He was supported by both Left and BJP. Similar experiments between 1977-80 and 1996-98 were supported by the Congress. This time both Congress and Left have very small national footprints.
The crass anti-BJP-ism is a recipe for disaster. This will make people vote with greater margin for the BJP. Nitish-Laloo experiment was localised to Bihar and could not be replicated in West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh. Even in the case of UP, one will have to see as to how antagonistic vote banks of SP and BSP will cooperate on ground level. For Congress to lend support to such a venture would be suicidal. It will further cannibalise its own organisation.
BJP’s electoral success is also a reflection of nation’s changing mood on the relationship between religion and the state and assertion of the majority community in cultural sphere as a political actor uncut by caste. It requires a robust ideological opposition and not knee-jerk ganging up.
Opposition needs to understand the ideological and organisational preparedness of BJP. Its power rests on the theory that organisations stem from the power of an idea and from which party can attain power. Opposition and Congress want to reverse the process by grabbing power first, thinking that organisation will stem from it which will ultimately coalesce into a robust idea. It has never happened past and will not happen in future.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of ZMCL)