Now, this is the one singular defect Mulayam has. His image has taken a beating and he is considered untrustworthy. That’s once reason why the Left is not welcoming him with open arms. A confused Mulayam’s contradictory signals evoke no sympathy, only curiosity. For everyone knows, his strings are being controlled by the Congress party with the CBI as an effective tool.
With Mamata Banerjee first and now Mulayam Singh Yadav predicting a general elections in October 2013, months before the actual date in 2014, talks of a “Third Front” have been gathering pace.
With the United Political Alliance government, headed by the Congress party, gasping for breath after the DMK’s withdrawal of support, no one is sure when either of the two political rivals from Uttar Pradesh will pull the plug on the government.
Mulayam has, as always, been giving conflicting signals on his future moves. On the one hand he says that he is supporting the government from the outside to prevent “communal forces” from coming to power, but on the other hand, he praises Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani, seen as a living symbol of the destruction of the disputed Babri Masjid.
In the same breath, Mulayam holds discussions with Sharad Pawar, the gentleman from Maharashtra who dislikes the Lady from Italy, but does not mind supporting her party.
But let’s see what shape the Third Front is likely to take shape.
What is the Third Front exactly? The Third Front — also once called the National Front and at another time the United Front — is supposed to be a rag-tag coalition of “non-Congress, non-BJP parties”, and have formed governments at the Centre headed by near non-entities like I K Gujral and that sleeping beauty from Karnataka, H D Deve Gowda.
Components of the Third Front have been mostly from the Janata Dal (Secular), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), Mulayam’s own Samajwadi Party, the DMK or the AIADMK and the Left Front.
Presently, a depleted Left Front is waiting and watching Mulayam’s moves, but CPM general secretary Prakash Karat says, “as far as the CPM is concerned, a political alternative can emerge only… around an alternative platform of policies.”
Now, let’s see how the so-called Third Front will fare, given the present situation. We start from the south.
In Tamil Nadu, both the Dravidian parties which have ruled at one time or the other, have been hand-in-glove with either the Congress or the BJP at some time or the other. These are opportunistic parties. The DMK is not yet sure whether it will go with the NDA or the UPA, but Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK at present is favourably disposed towards the NDA, even if Narendra Modi were to become the prime minister.
In Kerala, the NDA does not stand much chance since both the ruling Congress party and the opposition Left Front are antagonistic towards it.
In Karnataka, the coin has gone up for a toss, but it seems likely that it will be a heads-I-win situation for the Congress. For the Third Front, the likely party will be Deve Gowda’s Janata Dal (Secular), but the former prime minister party will be relegated to a poor third in the coming assembly elections in the state, according to psephologists. Former chief minister B S yeddyurappa’s Karnataka Janata Paksha could be a likely candidate. Yeddyurappa wants his party to become a strong regional power like the AIADMK and the DMK in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, but apart from causing some damage to the BJP, it is unlikely the KJP will make any political impact on its own. If reports are to be believed, Yeddy is also courting the Congress party out of sheer malice towards the BJP.
In Andhra Pradesh, the main probable candidate for the Third Front is N Chandrababu Naidu’s Telugu Desam Party. But TDP seems debilitated and Naidu seems to be veering towards the idea of returning to the NDA fold. Already, the TDP is testing the waters to this end.
Here, it might to be interesting to note that the TDP under its founder N T Rama Rao was the force behind the first Third Front formation. Naidu has realised that his attempts at joining hands with “secular forces” have not yielded him nay dividends. It may take a lot of coaxing and cajoling from Mulayam, but Naidu is keeping the cards close to his chest.
The separatist Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Jaganmohan Reddy’s YSR Congress Party are lukewarm towards the Third Front. The Left Front does not have a mass base.
In Maharashtra, the only hope for the Third Front would be Sharad Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party and Mulayam is already working on the Maratha strongman. Pawar, however, is a rank opportunist, and for him only Power matters. So it is debatable if he will ever join a Third Front unless they get large number of seats collectively.
In Gujarat, it is zero for the Third Front. The same in Madhya Pradesh.
The Biju Janata Dal led by Naveen Patnaik in Odisha is a likely candidate for the Third Front. His late father Biju Patnaik was a Thrid Front. But Naveen is more practical and like Naidu will keep the cards close to his chest.
In bi-polar Punjab, again, the Third Front stands no chance since the Shiromani Akali Dal has made it clear time and again, that they stand like a rock behind the BJP-led NDA. Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal went so far as to dimiss the so-called Third Front as just a “figment of imagination”.
In Haryana, Chautala’s Indian National Lok Dal stand discredited and it seems unlikely it will recover from the blow it received from the leader’s conviction in the teachers’ scam.
Come Jammu and Kashmir, the National Conference has been to bed with both the NDA and the UPA. But body language now shows that it would continue with the UPA, for now.
Uttar Pradesh, the big state, has Mulayam’s bitter rival, ‘behen’ Mayawati and her Bahujan Samaj Party as a strong player. With Mulayam as head of the Third Front, Mayawati would not touch the formation with a barge pole.
In Bihar, the Third Front will have some eager candidates. Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party. But with Nitish Kumar on a roll along with the BJP, these two parties seem to be down in the dumps and it would be difficult for them to contribute meaningfully with the number of MPs expected to be in single digits.
However, Nitish Kumar is the man who is being assiduously wooed by both the Congress party-led UPA and the Third Front. Reams of paper have gone to the raddiwallah with all sorts of predictions that his association with the NDA has reached its nadir. But Nitish is too smart a person whose views can be shaken by political pundits or that he could be bribed by “special status” sops.
The north-east does not have much to contribute to the Third Front at the moment.
I have kept West Bengal for the last. The Trinamool Congress led by the mercurial Mamata Banerjee is also not disclosing her cards. But one thing is sure: Mamata does not trust Mulayam Singh Yadav. As they say, one bitten, twice shy…
Now, this is the one singular defect Mulayam has. His image has taken a beating and he is considered untrustworthy. That’s once reason why the Left is not welcoming him with open arms.
A confused Mulayam’s contradictory signals evoke no sympathy, only curiosity. For everyone knows, his strings are being controlled by the Congress party with the CBI as an effective tool.
No one is as yet sure if Mulayam will grab the carpet from under the feet of the UPA, if at all.
Mulayam opensly harbous prime ministerial ambitions. For him, it is now or never. But he faces a strong opposition from another person with similar strong ambitions, Sharad Pawar, who could be a better candidate from among the two evils.
But in the current political scenario, Mulayam’s dreams will remain just that. Dreams. So will the Third Front take off? It seems highly unlikely. It would continue to remain a distant mirage.