More than a week has passed ever since K Chandrashekhar Rao, Chief Minister of Telangana spoke about forming a front as an alternative government at the Centre. Rao said that the BJP and Congress have failed miserably in bringing about qualitative change in the country for more than 70 years, hence, the need for an alternative government at the centre.
It did not take even hours for Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister of West Bengal to swing into action. The Trinamool Congress leader picked up phone and rang up Telangana Chief Minister. Mamata went on to assure her Telangana counterpart that she was willing to work with him for a federal front or third front government at the Centre. Later, she connected Chennai and spoke to M K Stalin, the DMK leader reiterating her support for a non-BJP, non-Congress government at the Centre.
People expected something big coming up next to see realignment of political forces before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But we are yet to hear anything about the National Front, Federal Front or Third Front against the national parties.
On the contrary, the most vocal advocate of third front Mamata Banerjee who wants a non-BJP, non-Congress government at the Centre came out with a statement in Kolkata that she would support the Congress nominee Abhishek Manu Singhvi as a Rajya Sabha candidate from West Bengal. The Congress readily accepted the offer of Trinamool Congress leader and nominated Singhvi for Rajya Sabha from West Bengal.
Mamata Banerjee, Chandrashekhar Rao, Naveen Patnaik and other protagonists of third front government should first make up their mind if they want a front against BJP or a front against both BJP and Congress.
What we hear now is that all non-BJP leaders are a worried lot today. For the opposition parties and their leaders privately admit that the BJP will retain power and Narendra Modi is going to get a second term as Prime Minister of India. The manner in which the non-Congress opposition leaders attack the Modi Government it appears that Modi, constitutionally elected Prime Minister of India is the enemy of the opposition.
The opposition does not miss an opportunity to attack the BJP, the RSS and Narendra Modi. If this is the situation why make a fraudulent statement of forming a front for an alternative to the BJP and the Congress at the Centre? Why can’t these leaders give a call for “Mahajot”, a term used in West Bengal for Grand Alliance against the BJP in 2019?
The reason being, in West Bengal Mamata will not allow the Communists to join Mahajot. In Odisha, the Biju Janata Dal will not join hands with the Congress to fight against the BJP as an ally. In Tamil Nadu, the DMK will not align with the AIADMK; the latter is likely to be a partner of the BJP in 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The AIADMK’s sole interest lies in retaining power in Tamil Nadu. Since the state assembly elections will be held in 2021, the Lok Sabha elections don’t matter much to shake hand with the DMK to oppose the BJP.
There is nothing wrong in a democracy if political parties forge alliance to win or for a leader nursing ambition to become Prime Minister of the country. The opposition parties are welcome to float a front in whatever name it wants but the leaders who are working for a grand alliance would also have to choose someone to lead the third or fourth front. It is here that the problem starts for the third front leaders. The moment a name is dropped, swords are out. There is no unanimity let alone a general acceptance on a name.
When Mamata Banerjee told Chandrashekhar Rao, Telangana Chief Minister that she was ready to work with him for a third front government at the Centre, did she mean that she will accept Rao as leader of the front and as Prime Ministerial candidate in case the front wins a majority in the Lok Sabha?
Will Naveen Patnaik accept Mamata as Prime Minister of the front and vice versa? Will Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh ever accept Chandrashekhar Rao as Prime Minister? The answer is a big NO.
The premise of a third front government stems from the 1996 experiment when the Vajpayee Government was defeated on the floor of the Lok Sabha after 13 days of being in power. Opposition wanted Jyoti Basu, the then chief minister of West Bengal to lead a non-BJP, non-Congress Government at the Centre but the Central Committee of the CPM commanded that Basu will not join nor the CPM will participate in the government. The Marxists agreed to support the government from ‘outside’. However, the junior partner of the Left Front, the CPI joined the United Front government that was led by H D Deve Gowda who came as a surprise but acceptable face as Prime Minister. Deve Gowda was replaced by Inder Kumar Gujral. The Congress party which lent support from outside pulled down the government forcing a midterm election in 1998. The BJP government returned to power with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the prime minister. The experiment of a forced compromise and forced alliance hardly works. The United Front experiment was a big failure.
R K Sinha
(The writer is a Member of Parliament. Rajya Sabha)