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Naiduís Third Front:WHAT IMPACT ON NATIONAL POLITY? T.D. Jagadesan,25 April 2006 Print E-mail

OPEN FORUM

New Delhi, 25 April 2006

 Naidu’s Third Front

WHAT IMPACT ON NATIONAL POLITY?

By T.D. Jagadesan

The recent formal announcement of the formation of an “anti-Congress, anti-BJP front” by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) President Chandrababu Naidu and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav in New Delhi has hardly caused any surprise in political circles.  For, everyone knew how desperate the former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister has been to foster the “Third Front”. That he has a willing partner in Mulayam Singh’s plan has also been known to one and all.

The duo claimed to have the support of three other parties to be with their front, the Asom Gana Parishad, the AIADMK and the National Conference. Except the AGP, the other parties have so far remained silent on whether they are party to the Mulayam-Naidu front or not.   The AIADMK chieftain and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Jayalalitha is too busy with the Assembly elections to devote any time to alliances which have no relevance in her State.

The National Conference has no stake in the new front either, because it can hardly take Farooq Abdullah’s articulate son Omar to the Union Cabinet.  The AGP has been roped in by Mulayam Singh and Naidu since the party is making a determined bid to regain power in Assam.

For Mulayam Singh or Naidu, it is nothing new to make or break fronts and alliances. Several years ago, the Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister had formed a front with Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal. The front lasted hardly a few weeks.  The Samajwadi Party enjoyed power at the Centre for two years as a constituent of the United Front.

But when the United Front lost power, Mulayam Singh and Naidu disbanded the front in no time, Naidu gave his support to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and remained with the saffron brigade for over six years.   Naidu got disillusioned with the NDA because the Congress-led UPA dislodged the alliance from power in Delhi, though it is another story.

Naidu never thought that he would lose power after setting the record as longest-serving Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. A reluctant Atal Behari Vajpayee was also led into advancing the Lok Sabha polls to put L.K. Advani’s “India Shining” claims to test. As expected, the alliance came unstuck in the face of the harsh realities. Naidu had no more use for the BJP. The saffron party also did not need the TDP’s support either in Delhi or in the State.   So, they parted company and began going their own ways.

So, what are the benefits that Naidu perceives from the Third Front which appears to consist of just three parties right now with little prospects of any key players from other States jumping on to its bandwagon in the near future?  He thinks that it can form the nucleus of an “alternative” if the Left parties get fed up with supporting the Congress-led UPA Government at the Centre and decide to rock the boat. Secondly, Naidu feels that the Third Front will give legitimacy and respectability to regional parties which are opposed to both the Congress and the BJP in their respective States.

But the TDP Chief is not so naïve as to believe that the Third Front can ever be a viable alternative to the Congress and the BJP led fronts at the Centre, because he knows that all the coalition governments in the country since the Janta experiment in 1977 have been in power only with the support of the Congress or the BJP. Similarly, V.P. Singh led the National Front Government with the support of both the BJP and the Left Front.  Though the CongressBihar, the party cannot be written off.  The BJP has its strongholds in the Hindi belt and Gujarat but it cannot be treated as a parjah in other States. has lost its all-India base, and more so in Uttar Pradesh and

The Left parties will not dump the UPA so long as the Congress remains a spent force in West Bengal and the Congress-led UDF and the LDF can alternately hold power in Kerala.  The National Front and United Front experiments earlier also show the Left Front’s penchant to have political leverage with the ruling dispensation at the Centre because no one in the States likes to have a hostile Government in Delhi.

One thing is pretty clear. Naidu’s political ideology or his commitment to secular and democratic ethos do not inspire confidence among the other political leaders. Naidu’s ideological moorings can change with his self-interest.  He had no qualms in seeking the support of Narasimha Rao and later Sitaram Kesari to keep the United Front in power under two Prime Ministers for two years because he needed a reprieve from the Congress for consolidating his power base in the State.  He had staged the coup and toppled his father-in-law N.T. Rama Rao in 1995 with the covert blessings of the Congress high command.

When Naidu found that the Congress was losing ground to the BJP as was evident in the 1998 Lok Sabha elections, he had no second thoughts on hitching on to the NDA bandwagon. The yellow party’s secular credentials got tainted with saffron and the minorities got thoroughly disillusioned with Naidu for his opportunistic alliance with “communal forces”. Naidu realized the value of the minority votes when it was far too late to save his throne in 2004.

Given the complexity of the contemporary Indian polity in the coalition era with two major fronts, led by mainstream parties with their satellite allies, the Mulayam-Naidu duo cannot hope to breathe life into the so-called Third Front. The fact that the parties of both these leaders share a common election symbol – the bicycle – cannot take them on the long, tortuous road to power in Delhi.

Astrologers once predicted that Advani and Sonia Gandhi would never become Prime Ministers. And if king-maker Naidu thinks that he can put Mulayam Singh into the King’s role in Delhi with the help of the Comrades someday, nothing can be more far-fetched.

Instead of chasing mirages or conjuring up grandiose dreams, Naidu would do well to concentrate on his home turf.  He cannot underestimate the Congress and his bete noire Chief Minister Y.S. Rajasekhar Reddy.

As far as Mulayam Singh is concerned his immediate task is to retain power in the next year’s Assembly election.  Mayawati is waiting in the wings to wrest power from him. Either the Congress or the BJP is likely to join hands with the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, much to the discomfiture of the Samajwadi Party. Naidu certainly lacks Jayaprada’s glamour to fetch votes for his friend, Mulayam Singh---INFA

 (Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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