Mid-term polls seem inevitable. Most provincial leaders are lessening in influence. They want to cash in on their depleting assets before too long and may want to extract the maximum before they lose the advantage they enjoy at present. Mulayam Singh of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh is rapidly losing the ground. So is Mamata Bannerjee in West Bengal. Much would depend on how the leaders can hold on to their own before the polls take place.
The outcome is anybody’s guess. One thing that is sure as of now is no single party will get a majority in the Lok Sabha, comprising 543 members. And which parties will join hands is difficult to say at this juncture. It all depends on whether the parties carry the credentials of being anti-communal and how far they are convincing. It is apparent that the BJP, known for its Hindutva thesis, may be on one side and the rest on the other side.
There is, however, a possibility that a third group may emerge. The Congress and the BJP are the two groups and their alternative will be the combination of the others. Outside support of the Congress or the BJP is necessary to make the majority, which will be 273. Debunking the idea of a third front government after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the BJP asked Mulayam Singh Yadav why his party had not withdrawn support to the UPA even though he had many complaints against the Congress. But he has his compulsions. Nevertheless, his son and UP chief minister Ahilesh Yadav has very much kept a third front alive front after meeting with his Tamil Nadu counterpart J. Jayalalithaa.
That an alternative to both the Congress and the BJP is needed is generally accepted. But such a front cannot be on the old lines. When idealism lessens, many compromises will be made and even ethical considerations will be pushed to the background. This would mean leaders without qualities will begin to stalk the land. No doubt, India is going through such a phase today. It does not, however, mean that one set of undesirable people should be allowed to replace another set of undesirables. The beginning for a change can be small, but it cannot be dubious.
The third front in India, if and when formed, has a lot of work to do to clear the mess the Congress and the BJP have piled up over the years. The biggest crime the two parties have committed is to politicize the ills in the society to stay in power. With musclemen and money bags, they have destroyed the values, brick by brick. However, the biggest problem that parties which constitute the third front suffer from is that each one of them has, at one time or the other, been part of the alliance which the Congress or the BJP had forged.
Against this background, it is understandable why both the Congress and the BJP have pooh-poohed at the idea of a third front when Mulayam Singh Yadav touched on the revival of the subject. At the same time, the statements emanating from top Congress and BJP leaders, mocking at the birth of a third front, indicate that the two main political parties are edgy as well as uncertain about their future with the general elections due anytime between now and early 2014.
However, there is one big question remains, that of consensus building. When there are so many parties with conflicting ideologies, different working styles and personality clashes, the biggest problem would be who among the dozen-odd leaders will become prime minister? Mulayam Singh Yadav is already counting his eggs even before they are hatched. Then there are regional leaders like J. Jayalalithaa and Chandrababu Naidu of the Telugu Desam from Andhra Pradesh. Even Mayawati of the Bahujan Samajwadi Party’s Mayawati nursed such an ambition for some time. But my worry is how can parties with regional outlooks govern and upkeep the diverse Indian population?
In such a scenario, the only option available is to arrive at a consensus and choose a prime ministerial candidate who has the understanding of foreign relations and the economic growth of the country. There are thousands of young men and women, who are working voluntarily at the grassroots in the fields of health, education, environment and human rights. They can all be strung together. They, in turn, will bring in their experiences and contacts to make the front more meaningful. Even the communists will be keen on roping in all such elements that are outside the orbit of the BJP and the Congress.
I recall Mallika Sarabhai contesting the last Lok Sabha election as an independent candidate. She chose to contest against L.K. Advani and her reason for doing was she wanted to send a message across the nation that people believing in democracy and secularism have to fight for the space which the political parties have come to occupy. Some human rights activists also followed the same path. They had constituted a people’s political forum, Lok Niti Manch, a platform where groups and individuals fighting for protecting the rights of people assembled, to contest elections.
The only condition to join the Manch was that they must believe in democracy, secularism and a welfare state. It is another matter that none of the contestants, including Mallika, had won. And it did not matter to them. But the initiative came for praise from like-minded people because a process to cleanse politics and to oust all such elements who are motivated by power and money had been set in motion. Today, their number may be small, but once the message spreads they will gradually gain in strength. Gandhian Jayaprakash Narayan, who successfully ousted Indira Gandhi government in 1977, constituted the Janata Party which won a majority in the Lok Sabha. I do hope that someday, such efforts will bear fruits and take the shape of a political party like the Greens in Europe. EOM