Amidst the much-hyped Narendra Modi v/s Rahul Gandhi contest, the coming together of four major regional players and several smaller parties at a Left sponsored convention against communalism here on Wednesday is seen a precursor to the formation of a Third Front.
Though, the organisers vehemently deny that there was any plan to form an electoral alliance, the ganging up of regional parties in the name of secularism and also against the Congress has returning the memories of the National Front (NF) and United Front (UF) and , that ruled the country twice in 1989 and later in 1996 respectively.
So far not only the Janata Dal (United), Biju Janata Dal, AIADMK and Samajwadi Party — the parties ruling Bihar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh — have confirmed their participation, but a host of smaller parties like Asom Gana Parishad, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and chief ministers of Nagaland, Puducherry, Sikkim and Tripura are also attending the day-long convention.
Describing talk of a Third Front at this stage a mere media hype, CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechuri said a concrete front will take shape only after the elections. “Every party will like to fight elections on its own and with full strength to get many numbers as possible,” he said, but admitted that the convention may lead to some political understanding at a later stage. But the primary aim was to consolidate political forces against communalism, he said.
Though, non-Congress secular political players have shown keen interest to join the left sponsored conclave, noted intellectuals with secular credentials are giving it a miss with alibis of health reasons or foreign trip preventing them to attend. They include theatre personality Shyam Benegal, activist and classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai who was among those petitioning the Supreme Court on the 2002 Gujarat riots, and Kannada literature Prof U R Ananda Murthy. Even Left historian Irfan Habib has excused himself on the health ground.
While Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh an Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will be attending the convention, two other opposition chief ministers -- J Jayalalitha of Tamil Nadu and Naveen Patnaik of Odisha – are sending their parties' representatives. YSR Congress Party chief Jagan Mohan Reddy has extended support to the convention, but he will be sending either his mother or sister to attend as he can't attend since he is bound by the bail condition of not going out of Andhra Pradesh. The CPI(M) sources claim half a dozen other regional parties have sent their consent to attend.
The decision to bring all secular forces on one platform came in a meeting of CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat with Mulayam here on October 2. With surveys predicting a bigger role for regional parties after the 2014 parliamentary elections, political circles here said the Third Front players don’t want to repeat the bitter experiences of 1989 and 1996, when they had to form minority governments on the crutches of BJP and Congress respectively, and lasts just for a year in office. “Both the major alliances the UPA and NDA could be in for a surprise. But we would like to wait till the elections are over. And that has been the history of alliances in India. Both the UPA and NDA were sewed up after the polls,” said Sitaram Yechuri.