Is Congress banking on a Third Front to keep out BJP? (Election Special)
The Congress is increasingly coming around to the view that it is unlikely to win the 16th general election on its own and that it may have to work with a Third Front to stop the BJP from coming to power.
At least four Congress leaders have already hinted that allying with the Third Front, or a coalition of parties not allied to either the United Progressive Alliance or the National Democratic Alliance, is a possibility for the party in order to stop the BJP from coming to power.
The latest to do so is Ahmed Patel, Congress president Sonia Gandhi's closest aide, who told a leading national daily that the party was willing to consider the possibility of working with a Third Front. Others like Prithviraj Chavan, Salman Khurshid and Jairam Ramesh have already spoken of this option.
While not all Congress leaders are willing to say so in public yet, in private the view has been doing the rounds for at least a couple of months. At a lunch he hosted for journalists in the capital some time earlier this year, a union minister from the south was categorical in stating that the party would not come to power on its own this time.
"Any party will start to stink if it spends 10 years in power," he stated in a matter-of-fact way.
Another union minister averred that the party was set to lose the elections but may still continue to be in power. "We are not going to win this time. But you may still see another UPA government at the centre," he said.
A union minister in the outgoing UPA-2 government said allying with the Third Front was a distinct possibility for the Congress as it was unlikely to get a majority on its own.
"We are keeping our options open and will take a call on allying with the Third Front once the results are out," the minister told IANS, not wanting to be identified because of the delicate nature of these issues.
Aware of the situation, the Left, which has played a part in forming a Third Front government at the centre each time in the past, is working towards the formation of another such government without making much noise about it.
Admitting that a Third Front government cannot come to power without support from the Congress, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) is actively working towards the victory of candidates belonging to non-National Democratic Alliance (NDA), non-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) coalitions, a well placed CPI-M source told IANS.
In Delhi, for example, the CPI-M asked its cadre and sympathisers to vote for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), except in South Delhi from where a Communist Party of India (CPI) candidate was in fray. Although the AAP has not yet shown an interest in the Third Front, the CPI-M considers it a potential ally.
In Bihar, the CPI and the ruling Janata Dal-United are contesting together. In Telangana, the CPI has an alliance with Congress.
In other states like Odisha, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the Left Front is working towards the victory of candidates belonging to Biju Janata Dal, Janata Dal-Secular, and YSR Congress respectively except a few seats where its own candidates are contesting, said the CPI-M source.
Manindra Thakur, a political science professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University, said that "the possibility of a Third Front government will arise if the BJP fails to cross the tally of 200 seats. In that case, the Congress may be able to stitch together a group of allies to form a next government".
Thakur also opined that a Third Front government this time may not be unstable.
"A good number of experiments in coalition politics have been done since the Janata Party government came to power in 1977. A Third Front government may run for a good number of years this time," Thakur told IANS.
Nisar Ul Haq, professor of political science at Jamia Milia Islamia, felt a Third Front would come into picture only if the NDA failed to cross the tally of 230 seats.
"If they get around 230 seats, they will be able to draw more allies. But if they fail to reach that mark, a Third Front government is a possibility. The number of seats regional allies get in UP, West Bengal, Maharashtra, and Odisha will be crucial to its formation," he said.
Haq also said that due to past experiences of having formed such governments, the parties may do a better job this time.
"The stability will also depend on the number of seats the Congress gets. If it gets more than 100 seats, it will be in its favour to keep the alliance and the government," added Haq.
(Abhimanyu Kumar Singh can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
(Posted on 29-04-2014)