With only two phases remaining in the ongoing Lok Sabha elections, psephologists, analysts, observers and commentators are all over —TV channels, newspaper columns and the web, particularly social media—giving their predictions, gut feelings and even speculations on the May 23 outcome.
While many are predicting a win for Modi, others are wondering from where the numbers would come, given the caste dynamics of the Mahagathbandhan and the fact that in Hindi heartland states, the saffron party has reached a saturation point from where it can only come down, not vice versa.
The Modi backers are hinting at a silent undercurrent, if not a wave. On the other hand, there are some who believe the Congress would be able to lead if it crosses the 100 (seats) mark, while many are looking at a Third Front backed by the Congress at the helm of affairs.
But the million dollar question is: where is the Third Front?
To begin with, except for state-level alliances such as in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka and Maharashtra, there is not even a basic understanding among the anti-Modi regional parties at the national level as of now.Therefore, in the event of the NDA unable to garner the required majority and the Congress failing to cross the double-digit figure, who all would comprise the so-called Third Front?
From Mamata Banerjee to Mayawati and even good old Deve Gowda, many of the regional satraps would not mind becoming the King Emperor (Prime Minister in this case). With the ascent of Didi in West Bengal and their wipe-out from Tripura, the Left parties stand totally marginalised and are not in the reckoning any more. In Kerala, thanks to the Sabarimala controversy, both the Congress and BJP are gaining at their expense. With Rahul Gandhi contesting from Wayanad, the relationship between the Congress and the Left has further worsened.
In Bihar too, the RJD-led rainbow alliance has shown lack of cohesion from day one in the absence of their stalwart and former Chief Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav.Down south, the YSR Congress, which is expected to make deep inroads into Andhra Pradesh, is unlikely to support any coalition which includes its arch rival TDP while for KCR, its main opponent in Telangana is the Congress and not BJP.
Odisha’s Naveen Patnaik has consistently maintained equidistance not only from the Congress and the BJP but also the so-called Third Front.Much like the communalism versus secularism debate, which resurfaces ahead of every election, the Third Front seasonal frog too makes a comeback before polls and is heard thereafter only in the event of any fluke short-lasting victory or, of course, in the next elections.
Ahead of the 2014 elections, the late Jayalalithaa-led AIADMK dumped the alliance with the Left parties in Tamil Nadu within days of the announcement of the 11-party Third Front while other key constituents such as the Samajwadi Party, JD(U) and Left parties decided to contest the elections on their own in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states sounding the death knell for the much-hyped initiative.
Interestingly, the Third Front at that time did not have the support of either Mamata or BSP supremo Mayawati. In fact, Mamata was said to be toying with the idea of a Federal Front or a Fourth Front.If anti-Congressism was the politically correct stand from the mid-60s to late 80s interspersed with the failed experiments of Janata Party and National Front coalitions, anti-BJPism laid the foundations of a third alternative, which has been further consolidated now by anti-Modi-ism.
It became fashionable to maintain equidistance from both the Congress and BJP though most of these regional satraps had no qualms about seeking outside support from the Congress as was the case with the Deve Gowda and IK Gujral governments, thereby losing credibility in the eyes of the electorate.
Besides, these Third Front governments also heralded an innings of instability not to talk about their disastrous performance on most fronts. Most of their time was spent on managing the messy coalition and trying to somehow stick on to power.
Up to 2014, with both the national parties realising that they cannot form governments on their own strength, smaller parties in their quest for a place under the sun and to extract their pound of flesh started gravitating towards them, leading to the formation of the UPA and the NDAThus, in public perception, the Third Front, which claims to represent regional aspirations, has come to be viewed as the last refuge for desperate power hungry regional satraps wanting to share the spoils of office at the Centre with the threat of withdrawal of support as their weapon of blackmail.
Except for the Left parties, all others are purely dynastic or personal enterprises, with no inner party democracy whatsoever. They have no principles, ideology, programmes or vision to offer to the people except hollow slogans of secularism, federalism and farmers’ rights. In the past too, wranglings for power and opportunism have been the hallmark of the short-lived Third Front regimes, which carried the seed of instability in their womb itself. 2019 promises to be no different.