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Third Front to be launched tomorrow
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 10
In just 24 hours, Naveen Patnaik swung from the extreme right to the extreme left and in the process dealt a stunning blow to L K Advani’s long-cherished dream of becoming the Prime Minister.

The Orissa Chief Minister’s well-crafted move to part ways with the saffron party after 11 years of association may or may not pay him rich dividend in the coming polls but it has certainly galvanised the leadership of the much-talked-about Third Front, which will be formally launched at a rally at Tumkur near Bangalore on Thursday.

With both the Congress and the BJP unable to stitch up alliances in crucial states, the Third Front suddenly fancies its prospects of forming the next government at the centre.

Political analysts argue that the Third Front, which could easily be wished away as a rag tag coalition of political opportunists only a few days back, is truly positioning itself as a formidable alternative, upsetting calculations of both the Congress and the BJP.

The four Left parties, Telugu Desam, AIADMK, Janata Dal (S) and The Telangana Rashtra Samiti will formally launch the Third Front, comprising non-Congress and non-BJP elements, at the Tumkur rally.

The Third Front leaders are in no hurry to project anyone as their Prime Ministerial candidate. The issue could be thrashed out after the elections. “Our aim is to form a non-Congress, non-BJP secular government at the centre…we have several candidates for the Prime Ministership but that is not any issue of concern to us,” a Left leader said.

The Left leadership, which has played a pivotal role in the Third Front taking shape, is obviously feeling elated over the cracks in the UPA and the NDA. For the Prime Ministership, the Left leaders say the Third Front has no dearth of leaders. Among them are former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and Telugu Desam chief N Chandrababu Naidu. And who says Mayawati will not align with the Third Front, if it could prop up the maverick leader to fulfill her ambition of heading the government at the centre in an uncertain post-poll scenario if she can fetch say even 40 seats in Uttar Pradesh.

While Mayawati has been keeping her cards close to her chest, the Left leaders openly say that though there is no seat-sharing arrangement with her, she would back the Third Front, as and when the situation arises. And Mayawati has not contradicted them either.

Thus the biggest loser so far in the unfolding political drama in the run up to the elections seems to be the BJP. A party, which could boast of 24 allies when it was in power until the summer of 2004, today has just six allies, vociferously demanding their pound of flesh in the seat-sharing arrangement.

The BJD’s exit from the NDA camp has made them much more aggressive, reducing the BJP’s bargaining power with them. Of the BJP’s allies, only the Janata Dal (U) can claim to be well placed to take on the Lalu Prasad-Ram Vilas Paswan duo in Bihar, thanks to the performance of CM Nitish Kumar. All other BJP allies, including the Akali Dal in Punjab and the Indian National Lok Dal in Haryana, may find the going tough.

The UPA also finds itself grappling with all sorts of problems, given the flip-flop made by the Congress on alliances front. The ‘grand old party’ initially announced that it was opposed to any alliances at the national level in a clear attempt to arm-twist its allies. But the ground situation in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Bihar made the party realise that it could hardly dictate terms to anyone, particularly to its allies in these states. The seat-sharing talks with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh have come a cropper, much to Mayawati’s delight. With the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) also, the talks have not made much headway so far.

In 1989, V P Singh was catapulted to power at the head of a United Front government, which was a loose amalgam of regional parties, supported from outside by both the BJP and the Left parties. That government, however, did not last long. But the million-dollar question now is: Will the history repeat itself after two decades and bring a non-Congress non-BJP front to power?

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