M A I N   N E W S

Third Front falters but seeks to spoil the party
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 13
Both UPA and the NDA put up a brave front on Friday but admitted that the newly formed Third Front had them worried. While Congress and BJP leaders are not ready to accept that the Third Front could influence results in as many as 200 Lok Sabha constituencies, they grudgingly admitted that the new coalition of non-Congress and non-BJP affiliates could prevent the two main coalitions from getting close to the half-way mark in the Lok Sabha.

The Third Front has emerged as a dark horse and political circles in the capital are agog with speculation of a badly hung Lok Sabha. In the worst case scenario for the UPA and the NDA, the two coalitions get to split 300 seats between themselves, leaving the smaller parties and the Third Front to pick up the remaining 245 seats in the Lok Sabha.

Such speculation has got a fillip from the statement of NCP leader Sharad Pawar , who on Friday declared that if neither UPA nor NDA managed to garner a majority, there was no way the Third Front could be ignored.

UPA, however, takes solace from its newly forged alliance with Mamata Banerjee in Bengal and its expected tie-up with the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh. Its alliance with Trinamool Congress is designed less to increase its own tally in the Lok Sabha and driven more to ensure that the Left Front , specially the CPM, loses out. The Left Front had won more than half its seats in 2004 from West Bengal. But this time it is expected to lose heavily there due to opposition unity and lower prospects of opposition votes getting divided.

Besides, the Third Front itself has started on a shaky note with Mayawati allegedly insisting that she be projected as the prime ministerial candidate of the front. While CPI A.B. Bardhan categorically ruled out any such possibility and said on Friday that the Third Front would not project anyone as the PM, sources in the Third Front concede that the message from Mayawati is unmistakable.

Mayawati is hosting a dinner for Third Front leaders at her residence on Sunday, when the issue is expected to be thrashed out. But Left Front sources alleged that the ‘rumour’ had been planted by elements in UPA and NDA to ensure that the front fails to start. Chandrababu Naidu and Deve Gowda, they pointed out, had already ruled themselves out from the prime ministerial race and Mayawati too has not pressed for it. Her representative Satish Mishra’s statement that BSP’s aim was to make her the PM, they felt, had been misinterpreted.

Sharad Pawar has muddied the water further by declaring that anything is possible if UPA and NDA both fail to cobble a majority. Logically, he said, the PM this time should be from Maharashtra, specially since Gujarat (Morarji Desai), AP (Narasimha Rao) and Karnataka (Deve Gowda) had already given the country three prime ministers.



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