Third front never had a strong back, history will repeat

Third fronts in the past are known for being ideologically loose and opportunistic. Many parties with diverse political ideologies joined hands without any common vision. They neither had charismatic leader like Atal Bihari Vajpayee to glue the parties together nor they had dynastic leadership like in Congress which can still appeal to the people and parties.

Third fronts in the past were also known for internal differences within the coalition. Morarji Desai had a rival in Charan Singh within Janata Party, VP Singh had rival in Chandrashekhar within National Front, Deve Gowda had to transfer the power to IK Gujral to appease Congress, only to loose its support subsequently. Though Jyoti Babu (Basu) could have been a better prime minister than Deve Gowda, CPIs Polit Bureau made historical blunder by not letting him become PM. This time around, Deve Gowda, a familiar face at third front get togethers, played a key role in forming the latest version of third front. We have plenty of prime ministerial candidates to keep the differences on!

More over, third front lacks common vision and objectives. The only stated objective of third front so far is to form a non-Congress non-BJP government at the center. Third front feel that, NDA and UPA governments in past have created a hatred feeling in the minds of people due to their policies which (allegedly) failed to deliver. Is this nothing but a failed history in making?

Every time the third alternative was born in India, it was when there was hatred against ruling government. While at power, third alternative could neither nullify the hatred nor it could deliver what it had promised. Instead, it created more hatred in the minds of people against the government. Subsequently it was either Congress or BJP who gained due to the hatred created by third front. A quick look at the history tells us the story.

  1. In 1977, Janata Party government (headed by Morarji Desai) was installed after much hatred created by infamous autocratic (emergency) rule by madam (Indira) Gandhi. Result was, fall of Janata Party government owing to failed policies and internal differences. In 1980, Disgusted voters brought Madam Gandhi again at the helm. Beneficiary? Congress.
  2. In 1989 general elections, Congress was thoroughly defeated owing to infamous Bofors Scnadal. National Front (headed by V.P Singh) formed the government with outside support from BJP and Left, to keep Congress out of power. BJP took advantage of the outside support and continued to pursue its own agenda. Rath Yatra, Babri Masjid demolition, Reservation of backward classes, insurgencies in Punjab and Kashmir, forced VP Singh to resign. Hatred created by National Front government coupled with Rajiv Gandhis assassination sympathy votes, Congress again emerged triumphant. This time both Congress and BJP gained significantly.
  3. In 1996, though BJP emerged as a single largest party, it failed to form government. To keep BJP out of power, United Front(headed by Deve Gowda and IK Gujranl) formed the government with outside support from Congress. Congress successfully flirted with United front to finally see its fall in 1998. Beneficiary? Subsequent general elections in 1998 and 1999 favored BJP and finally brought Atal Bihari Vajpayee led NDA at the helm.
  4. In 2008, eight political parties grouped to form a transient coalition called United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA). It was a short lived love affair and dissolved/split after 2008 presidential elections. Though Samajawadi Party supported UNPA for President Kalams candidacy, it later joined UPA and supported it in Trust vote.
  5. On March 12, 2008 yet another Third Front was born with Deve Gowda, a familiar face at such get-togethers, playing the host at Tumkur in Karnataka. A failed history in waiting? time is the only answer

Way ahead and possibilities
As in the past, we cannot rule out surprise results in 15th general election. Here are few possibilities with respect to third front.

  1. If third front come to power without outside support from BJP/Congress: In case this happens, there will be a familiar chaos as it was in the past. So far, there is no consensus on leadership, seat sharing, future programs, no common vision and of course, no common political ideology. The struggle for power within the coalition will continue to widen the rift between its partners. The manifesto of CPI is confusing, it talks about strong market regulation as it was in pre 1991 era, prohibition of FDI in retail, renewed Non-Aligned movement, anti US policies, right to strike for govt employees, etc.. This may not be acceptable to other partners. Even if there is a compromise formula, the ideological barrier of Left parties will continue to create differences within Third Front. As in the past, we may see short lived government at the center and subsequent fresh elections (if any) will help either BJP or Congress for sure.
  2. If third front come to power with outside support from Congress/BJP: In this case, Congress/BJP (depending on who supports them) will have virtual control on the governments policies. Congress will continue to pursue its aspirations of breaking the third front within as it did in the past. BJP will continue to pursue its Hindutva agenda and will have renewed Operation Lotus at national level. Again, as the history suggests, third front will end up strengthening Congress/BJP.
  3. Third front with Mayawati at the helm:  Though her Dalit/Woman leadership background appeals to third front, it will be difficult for her to win over rest of the parties in third front. If she does, Madam (Indira) Gandhis rule can again tell us the story. Indira Gandhis conviction in electoral malpractice case in Allahabad high court resulted in widespread political unrest followed by emergency. Mayawati is already facing cases due to her (allegedly) misappropriate personal wealth. Her party has already seen corrupt law makers and some even have criminal background. More over, opportunistic nature of other parties may lead to (anticipated) chaos in running the government. Its difficult to say if her government completes five year term.
  4. If NDA/UPA forms government, current third front will be yet another transient conglomeration of political parties ending up strengthening two main stream parties.

Even though third front in the past has its own failed story, it wasnt a failure altogether. It has its own significance. Every time the third front was born, it alerted main stream parties to learn from their own mistakes. It strengthened the democratic education in the elections. 1977, 1999 elections were the best examples. People in India took lot of interest to keep the notorious leaders out of power. Parties in third front have their own dominance in states and the government at center cannot completely ignore them. Because, government knows, their collective (bargaining) power cannot be ruled out. whether or not third front forms the government, its legacy will only strengthen the democratic culture in our country.

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Congress tested, BJP too, here come Third Front

The Third Front, the coalition of disparate political parties, is an illusion, a farce and a misnomer, say its rivals.

A team of Marxists, regional parties and headstrong leaders simply can’t exist for long, say political analysts. Congress president Sonia Gandhi says the Third Front is “prone to disintegration”.

“The Third Front is not good for democracy and they cannot provide good governance to the people,” she says.

BJP leader L K Advani calls the Third Front a “farcical illusion” and says the main electoral fight is between the BJP-led NDA and the Congress-led UPA.

“There is no scope for a Third Front government, which does not have the support of BJP or Congress. It is a farcical illusion in the minds of people,” he says.Is the Third Front a repeat of the wobbly United Front, which ruled the country between 1996 and 1998? Third Front leaders reject their doubters and critics and claim only their coalition represents the country’s political kaleidoscope.

Is the Third Front a genuine challenge to the Big Two parties? CNN-IBN’s Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai asked this on The Weekend Edition to Congress spokesperson Ashwani Kumar, CPI national secretary D Raja, and Chandan Mitra, BJP Rajya Sabha MP and editor-in-chief of the Pioneer.

If the Third Front is significant then why are its rivals wasting so many words on it, said Raja. “We don’t call it Third Front–we are trying to build an alternative to the Congress and the BJP. If people call it Third Front, let me accept it. If it is a farcical illusion then why should Mr Advani cry hoarse and why should Mr Pranab Mukherjee express his anger,” he said.

“This shows the BJP and the Congress are jittery and they are afraid of the emerging combine, which is going to provide a credible and viable alternative.”

Nobody in the BJP is “petrified” of the Third Front, said Mitra. “Only the Congress need be worried because their people are leaving and joining the Third Front.”

The Third Front won’t survive because there is no “glue” to hold it together, said Kumar. “I don’t see any possibility in this election for a government led by the Third Front, or by whatever name you may call that motley combination of leaders and people,” he said.

Third Front could affect poll outcome, concedes PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday conceded that the decision of some Congress allies to form a separate front could affect the electoral outcome and said the Left parties and the Third Front were “unwittingly” helping the BJP.

“I would like the Samajwadi Party and Lok Janshakti Party to work together (with Congress). This could affect the electoral outcome to some extent,” he told journalists of the Indian Women’s Press Corps at an interaction in New Delhi.

He said he sincerely thought that the Left parties and Third Front would not be in a position to form a Government.

“Unwittingly the Left Parties and the Third Front are strengthening the BJP”, Singh said in his first comments commenting on the recent realignments that have taken place on the political horizon.

Congress allies RJD, LJP and SP have formed a front and are contesting against Congress in 134 constituencies in UP, Bihar and Jharkhand. Erstwhile allies Left parties have teamed up with a number of regional parties to form the Third Front on an anti-Congress, anti-BJP platform.

Also on Friday, the PM candidly accepted that he would have resigned if the Indo-US civil nuclear deal had not gone through. “I was quite clear that if the nuclear deal had not gone through, I would have resigned,” Singh said.

The prime minister’s remarks confirmed intense speculation during the tense political crisis in the middle of last year when the nuke deal met with stiff opposition from Left parties, the UPA’s outside supporters, that he may be thinking of quitting.

“It is a question of India’s honour. To save India’s honour, I staked my reputation,” Singh said in an apparent reference to his commitment to see that the nuke deal reaches a fruition.

Advani under attack

In a stinging attack on BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani and his party, Singh said “the country has to ask itself this question whether we should have a government which fans communal passions, which has once again raised old issues like Art 370, common civil code, Ram Mandir controversy at a time when India is faced with the threat of terror and we should have a decisive government”.

He said one who tries to divide people is ill-qualified to perform this task of dealing with economic crisis, terrorism and poverty.

Stepping up his attack on Advani, he said he was present during the demolition of Babri Masjid and if he was such a decisive leader he would have staked all his to prevent that carnage.

“You look at his record as Home Minister. The BJP election manisfesto said that their government will present a white paper on ISI in Parliament. But Advani completely forgot about it. His record as Home Minister you compare with our record,” he said.

He said the BJP government sent its foreign minister to negotiate with the Taliban government during the Indian Airlines plane hijack to Kandahar. “This is not enough. Three dreaded terrorists one of whom later became the founder of the Jaish-e-Mohammed was gifted by the government from Indian jails,” he said.

Citing the Gujarat riots, the Prime Minister said, “officially 1180 people were killed in the carnage” and asked how BJP can justify that and brand Narendra Modi as the most succesful chief minister.

Admitting that he cannot match Advani in public speaking, he said, “the proof of the pudding is in eating. We need a prime minister who is strong. Who can take decisions. Speaking loudly doesn’t make you a strong Prime Minister.

“I am not used to abusive language. That is against the Indian culture,” he added.

On Advani’s frequent taunt about his not contesting Lok Sabha elections, Singh said, “there have been prime ministers who have been from Rajya Sabha. Advani should amend the constitution if he wants to ensure that.”

He pointed out that Indira Gandhi was a member of Rajya Sabha when she became Prime Minister for the first time and so were Deve Gowda and I K Gujral. On BJP’s demand of bringing black money from banks abroad, he said, “it is the bankruptcy of the BJP’s economic policy”.

Asserting that the Congress party needed another 10 years to achieve its goal of eliminating poverty, he said, the Congress had tried to ensure that the fruits of riches reach the poor.

Conceding that managing a coalition government was difficult, he said, “though there had been allegations of corruption against some ministers, nothing ocncrete had emerged”.

Tytler issue

Meanwhile, a day after Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar were dropped as candidates for Lok Sabha polls by Congress, Manmohan Singh said on Friday that he was neither informed nor consulted over CBI’s clean chit given to Tytler in the 1984 anti-Sikh riots case.

“I was not informed, not consulted” over CBI clean chit to Jagdish Tytler, Singh said.

“Congress decision to cancel tickets to Tytler and Kumar shows party’s sensitivity to Sikh sentiments,” he said, adding “better late than never”.

The action against Tytler came with the Congress fearing a Sikh backlash in the elections as the issue came under spotight with a Sikh journalist lobbing a shoe at Home Minister P Chidambaram at a press conference on Tuesday.

He was protesting the clean chit by CBI to Tytler in the riots cases.

A chronicle of failed Third Fronts in past

New Delhi: A new trend is emerging in the political movements just as the General Elections draw nearer. Smaller parties have begun shunning national-level giants such as the Congress and the BJP to join another alliance now called the third front.

This has made the possibility of a third front government at the centre very real, which is in fact a repeat of what happened in 1996.

Here’s a brief recap of the other ‘third front’ experiments in the past – all of which failed to provide stable governments.

  • In the 1996 Lok Sabha electons the BJP emerged as a single largest party followed by the Congress.

  • The smaller political parties like DMK and TDP along with the Left ended up forming the government.

  • In the name of keeping the BJP out, they forced the Congress to give outside support and formed the United Front government with H D Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal, as Prime Minister.

  • This government, however did not survive for long as the Sitaram-Kesri led Congress withdrew support 10 months later.

  • The United Front leaders got together once again to support IK Gujral as the Prime Minister in 1997, again with the support of the Congress from outside.

  • Gujral’s coalition however ran into rough weather over DMK’s alleged role in the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi and he decided to resign and call for fresh elections while only six months into his term.

The other historic milestones for the Third Front

  • In 1977, the Opposition which included the Jana Sangh came together under the banner of the Janata Party soon after the Emergency but fell apart in two years.

  • In 1989, the National Front supported by the BJP and the Left emerged out of a national anger against corruption and made V P Singh the Prime Minister for 11 months.

The UPA still has an edge over NDA and Third Front

As the elections draw near, there have been a few honest admissions by politicians about their partys chances.The Bharatiya Janata Partys (BJP) Sushma Swaraj, for instance, has acknowledged that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by her party, will not get a majority. She, however, believes that it will be able to secure the support of a few allies to cross the crucial half-way point of 272 MPs.

Like her, Prakash Karat of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has conceded that the so-called Third Front favoured by the Left may have to depend on the Congress to form a government.


His choice of the Congress is surprising considering that he spearheaded a bitter campaign against the Manmohan Singh government on the India-US nuclear deal and tried to topple it in parliament by lining up with the BJP. But, as is known, there are no permanent friends or foes in politics (or diplomacy); only permanent interests.

Since Karat has chosen the Congress as a possible ally, it will not be unreasonable to expect the latter to bank on Left support to form a government, as Railway Minister Lalu Prasad of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) expects. The latter possibility is more feasible considering that the comrades were with the Congress for nearly four years of its present term.

However, what such a move will mean is that the Front will splinter, as it also will if it wants to bank on the Congress to come to power. The reason is the presence in the combination of two mercurial women – Mayawati and Jayalalitha. While the latter may not be unwilling to either ask for Congress support or call upon the Front to back the Congress, considering that she had looked for a partnership with the Congress not long ago, it is Mayawati who will be the stumbling block.

The reason is that while the Congress will not help the Third Front to install Mayawati as prime minister, she, on her part, will veto any move by the Front to help the Congress to form a government.

In any event, her and Jayalalithas domineering personalities will ensure that the Front will find it very nearly impossible to constitute itself into a coherent unit. Even if it somehow manages the numbers, it will not be seen as a viable entity, especially if ambitious but unreliable politicians like Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) join it to queer the pitch further.

Of all the senior leaders, Pawar has been the most fidgety of late, presumably because he feels that this is his last chance to be prime minister. He has been seen, for instance, in the company of the Shiv Senas Bal Thackeray while his party has stitched up an alliance with the Senas adversary, the Congress, in Maharashtra.

At the same time, Pawar has also been hobnobbing with another of the Congresss present-day opponents, the Third Front. He was expected to attend a rally with the Biju Janata Dals (BJD) Naveen Patnaik, who recently broke with the BJP, and the Left in Orissa, but backed off after the Congress expressed its displeasure. How adroitly Pawar performs the balancing act between the extreme Right – the Shiv Sena – and the Left with the Congress in the middle is a feat which will be worth watching.

If the Front has the problem of pushy members – Mayawati, Jayalalitha and Pawar – the BJP carries the burden of restive and inconsequential partners. Two of its allies, the BJD in Orissa and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, have drifted away while another, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) in Bihar, has indicated that it will decide on staying on in the NDA after the elections.

What may have perturbed the JD-U is the BJPs increasingly anti-Muslim attitude, which has been underlined by Varun Gandhis inflammatory speeches. It is obvious that the BJP has chosen to stand by this young (his critics would say renegade) member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty because the party believes that his anti-minority rhetoric can enthuse the cadres at a time when it has lost both its temple and terror planks, which used to be its trump cards earlier.

Now, the BJP has to fall back on its old mainstay of minority-baiting, but this tactic cannot but alienate the NDAs secular components like the JD-U. Since Varun Gandhi has also attacked the Sikhs, apart from the Muslims, another of the BJPs partners, the Akali Dal in Punjab, cannot be too pleased with the turn of events.

The uneasiness of these allies cannot be compensated by the BJPs latest acquisitions – the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) in Uttar Pradesh, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) in Haryana and the Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) in Assam. All three are minor parties with localised influence – the RLD in western Uttar Pradesh and the INLD in tiny Haryana. Of them, the AGP has even said that it is not a part of the NDA.

While the Third Front looks unwieldy and the BJP uncertain, the Congress has shot itself in the foot by its arrogance. By refusing to enter into a national-level alliance with its UPA partners, it made them hit back at Big Brother in their strongholds in the Hindi heartland.

In an insulting move, the Congress was offered a measly three and six seats, respectively, out of 40 and 80 by the RJD, the Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) and the Samajwadi Party in Bihar and UP.

The breakdown of their understanding with the Congress has also made the RJD, the LJP and the Samajwadi Party form an alliance among themselves – a mini-front within the UPA. But the consolation for the Congress is that they have decided, for the present, to remain in the UPA.

In any event, they are unlikely to move to the Third Front because of their antipathy towards Mayawati or to the NDA because of the BJP. So, the UPA can be said to have retained its outward contours. The only desertion from it has been by the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), but it is basically a minor party of Tamil Nadu.

On the other hand, it has won the support of the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, which is expected to do fairly well in partnership with the Congress against the Left.

All in all, therefore, the Congress-led UPA seems somewhat better placed than the other two formations.