Time for national govt?
Dr S Saraswathi How much credence should be given to Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav's recent assertion that the Third Front will wrest...
Dr S Saraswathi
How much credence should be given to Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav's recent assertion that the Third Front will wrest power at the Centre after 2014 General elections? Coming from a leader who has been giving "life support" to the UPA governments led by the Congress whenever required, and who does not hide his own political ambitions in national politics, the statement to put it mildly has extraordinary significance. The forecast is being repeated simultaneously with insistence of continued support to the present Government. This has naturally evoked intense interest in political circles. Verbal exchanges over the possible resurrection of the Third Front seem to be the decisive opening of electoral politics in any way due now. The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh himself has come out with a rare observation that elections would be held at the scheduled time and the UPA-II Government would continue till then. Following Samajwadi Party leader's hint that elections would probably take place in October-November this year, there is an expectation that the party will shortly withdraw its "outside support" to the UPA. However, such pre-election observations cannot be taken at their face value. They are part of the game for political gains especially in the prevailing climate of "package politics". They form part of the strategies to arrive at most beneficial electoral alliance for parties and leaders. The SP had supported the Congress-led UPA governments even on issues such as the Nuclear Deal and the FDI despite its policy differences communicated in strong terms in and outside Parliament. Leaving out the true intentions hidden in this political "bhavishyavani" (prediction) of the SP leader, the prospects of formation and survival of a Third Front government deserve to be examined in this poll year. The nomenclature "Third Front" in Indian party politics emerged in mid-1990s when the Congress was defeated. A group of 10 parties held a rally in Bangalore to launch what was termed the "Third Front" to oppose "pro-rich" economic policies of the Congress and the BJP, to fight growth of "communal and fascist forces", and to promote the cause of the farmer, the poor, Dalits, OBCs, women, minorities, and the youth. The alliance partners of this Front formed the United National Progressive Alliance. After 1996 elections, the Janata Dal, SP, DMK, TDP, AGP, All India Congress (Tiwari), Left Front of four parties, Tamil Manila Congress (of Moopanar), National Conference, and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party formed the United Front. This Front formed two governments between 1996 and 1998 � the first with H.D Deve Gowda, and the second with IK Gujral as Prime Ministers. The Congress under the presidentship of Sitaram Kesari offered "outside support" only to pull this down within a short time in opposition to the inclusion of the DMK. In 1998, the United Front was practically routed in the elections losing over 50 per cent of the seats it held in the Lok Sabha. Even its central figure, the JD, which has given four Prime Ministers � VP Singh, Chandrasekhar, HD Deve Gowda, and IK Gujral _was reduced drastically from 43 to six seats! Left parties alone maintained their position. In 1999, there was no Third Front to face elections together. After the defeat of the Vajpayee government in the confidence vote, the Congress tried to form a minority government, and strong regional parties such as the AIADMK and SP worked for a Third Front government with Jyoti Basu as the Prime Minister. All these failed. Small and regional parties, which are the constituents of the Third Front, do change their position from time to time. They do not conceal their real intention to increase their own strength in Parliament and better their bargaining power with the Front likely to form the government. For them, issues such as economic reforms and secularism do not determine alliance partners or voting in Parliament. They are mentioned only to give a semblance of ideology that does not exist. In 2009, the Third Front was resurrected and formally launched. Comprising the two Communist Parties, JD (Secular), TDP, BSP, AIADMK, Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TSR), Revolutionary Socialist Party, FB, Janhit Congress, the Front was however a rather loose conglomeration of parties and none of these fared well in 2009 elections. The situation today is vastly different from what it was in 1999 when splinter groups of the Janata Dal were struggling to take roots in some States. Today there are some strong regional and State parties which can practically bar the entry of any national party in their strongholds as if they are irrelevant. The SP in Uttar Pradesh, JD (U) in Bihar, AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, and BJD in Odisha can tilt the scales any way. Other parties such as the DMK and the TDP, though not holding power presently are definitely political forces to be reckoned with. But, between themselves, they have no common agenda. Party politics in India has created an artificial and imaginary division as secular and communal forces. The Third Front is a negative concept made up of some of the non-Congress and non-BJP parties but with no common binding character. It is a negative union willing to accept "outside support". Third Front is a nomenclature sans meaning. To imagine such a coalition which has no common policy handling multiple national problems is not pleasant. We have seen how the BJP and the Congress have faced coalition compulsions preoccupied mostly with tackling the partners rather than national problems. If governance can be paralysed in a coalition with a dominant leader, a Third Front of equal and incoherent elements cannot fare better. What the country needs today is a performing National government offering good governance, honest politics, and efficient administration. These will be beyond our reach if the race for power and positions and manipulations to retain them continue to be the crux of Indian politics. The best government under the prevailing political conditions is a national government of knowledgeable, efficient and honest leaders from different walks of life to run an accepted common programme. There is no dearth of such persons in the country, but politics has to take a new "avatar" to persuade them to take the responsibility of governance. The nation has suffered enough under political party politics, and has to switch over to "partyless" democracy. And not to Third, Fourth, and Fifth Fronts forming a government of contradictions! � INFA