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It’s alive…almost! - Zee Exclusive

Shashank Chouhan
The third leg of Indian politics is making yet another attempt to rise to the occasion of the ultimate opportunity of satiating the lust for power. But it won’t take just any other blue pill to help in the cause; the attempt calls for some numbing number crunching, ground ceding, border crossing, ally ditching and diplomatic talking.
If you haven’t yet been able to guess what we are talking about, you have clearly missed the almost-‘Eureka’ and almost-‘It’s alive!’ moment of Indian politics- the formation of the Third Front.
Almost Eureka because the leaders, who form the front would have you believe that they have found the legendary alternative to the Hand and the Lotus, but that’s not the first time that such a dream is being spun.
And almost It’s alive, because not only is the coalition on shaky grounds before its trial by EVMs, but may eventually prove to be the Frankenstein for its constituents.
Three things stand in the way of capturing of the throne by this lose bunch of ten parties which came together in the sleepy town of Dobbespet, 70 kms from Bangalore: History, the present and the future.
At three occasions in the past, has a non-Congress and non-BJP front led the government in Delhi and all three were miserable failures, dashing all chances of establishing a true multi-party political environment in India.
In 1977, the Janata Party snatched the reins from a power crazed Congress, riding on an overwhelming popular resentment against Emergency. But this political rainbow never found its fabled pot of gold. Lust for the top job led to numerous defections and most of the current Third Front parties are the tributaries of that flop potboiler.

The same was repeated in 1989 when National Front-BJP-Left government collapsed as VP Singh-Chandrashekhar fight for supremacy cost the nation another election.
Then, in 1996 United Front-Congress-CPM combine shuttled from crisis to crisis over the seemingly hexed post and died a natural death after much bickering and pulling the carpet from beneath Deve Gowda.
The elections of 2009 will most likely present a similar destiny as the Front finds itself playing the nasty Who Wants to be the PM game. One need not forget that invaluable lesson we all have learnt in school- history repeats itself.
While the Left parties, with 58 MPs in the current Lok Sabha, could be the biggest players, their shying away from taking direct responsibility of actions at the Centre has thrown up curious post-poll scenarios. And that future does not appear very rosy, if the present is any indication.
Consider the awkward situation the comrades find themselves in. Their four-year support to the Congress had put them firmly in the national mindscape and it sought to play the most important cog in the UPA set-up by pulling support over the Indo-US nuclear deal. But the move backfired- not only was the UPA saved by one time ally, the SP, but the Left had to do some face saving as their master stroke failed and it was left to the margins of political consciousness.
Not only that, the Left parties are struggling to ensure the numbers in their bastions of West Bengal and Kerala, where anti-incumbency, in-fighting and a strong Opposition are working overtime to sound the death knell of the Red salute.
If the Left parties are unable to retain their numbers, Third Front is already a dead man walking.
Mayawati, with her caste based social engineering, has made clear her ambitions of becoming the PM, which is sure to make any future alignment a murky deal for the hot seat. Her 16 MPs in the Lok Sabha may go up to a maximum of 50, given the mess that the Congress and Samajwadi Party have made of the golden opportunity presented to them. BJP, along with Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, can only hope for a miracle with the current leadership deficit that the party with a difference finds itself in UP- the biggest battlefield of Indian politics with 80 seats in the Lok Sabha.
BSP has not announced any formal pre-poll alliance, but the presence of S C Mishra at Dobbespet and the lack of any opposition to the party fielding its candidates in the constituencies of some Third Front parties, speaks volumes about an impending marriage.
Add to that, the presence of Jayalalithaa - who is still not sure of this alliance and is known to be luring the Congress-, former PM Deve Gowda, who is an expert at playing the worst power politics and the smarter than expected Naveen Patnaik, who may join the Front and play a decisive role as well.
That Sharad Pawar is keeping his options open despite being an ally of Congress in Maharashtra, sealing political deals in Orissa, North East and elsewhere, does not help matters. In fact it does the opposite as the man has declared that a Maharashtrian should be the PM this time- leaving it to none’s imagination as to whom he means.
Whether any of these regional satraps deserve to rule a billion is a question lost to the ground reality of our system, wherein the national parties will be forced to play mate with them if they are unable to conjure the magical figure of 272, which is quite likely given the fractured electorate. It will, undoubtedly, produce yet another instable government at a time when India needs stability the most.
Only the naïve can call this power sharing arrangement an alternative to the Congress and BJP. None of the parties- except for the Left which may not be in a position to argue post polls- have any national agenda. They have, at times in the past, refused to see India as a singular entity beyond their region, caste or ambition. If anything, the Third Front is a coming together of some farcical forces of Indian politics which are willing to put at stake everything to taste power.


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