ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Third Front: A Post-mortem

What was the left doing with the natural allies of the Congress and the BJP?

Among the big casualties of the recent general elections was the “Third Front” (TF) which had been the centrepiece of the left’s political strategy to push the Congress into a corner and cut the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) down to size. Unfortunately for its promoters, who pitched it as the e lectoral and policy alternative to the Congress and BJP at the n ational level, it was largely rejected by the voters and has now been accepted, by its very advocates, as a non-starter.

The reasons for this crushing defeat are not difficult to spot and have already been identified by the principal players themselves. It was an ad hoc arrangement cobbled together under the initiative of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] a fter its bitter parting with the United Progressive Alliance government over the nuclear deal in July last year. The primary binding factor of the constituents was opposition to the Congress. Yet this opposition to the Congress was of a contingent nature for most of them. Even though, ostensibly, they all were opposed to the BJP, they had, other than the left parties, often shared power with this “communal” party. Crucially, there was no coherence in the policy and ideological positions of its constituents. If the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam had construction of the Ram temple and protection of Ram’s bridge (Sethusamudram) in its manifesto, the Telugu Desam Party had for long been the World Bank’s global poster boy for “economic reforms”. While the Telangana Rashtra Samiti’s (TRS) demand for a separate T elangana sat uneasy with its ally, CPI(M)’s insistence on a unified Andhra Pradesh, the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s pitch for the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s Prabhakaran was equally at odds with the positions of other parties. Further, it was clear that each of its non-left constituents had kept their options of joining a BJP-led government open. Lastly, all the main TF constituents, including the CPI(M), faced significant erosion of popular support due to their policies in government and were basing their chances of victory on the unpopularity or division of their opposition, rather than on any positive agenda of change.

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