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Relevance of the Third Front

Dr. Prem Singh
Despite their efforts before and during the initial rounds of the Lok Sabha elections, the Third Front based upon the third force politics has not been able to emerge in a definite shape; neither on the basis of the parties, nor on the basis of a common minimum program (CMP).  Although senior leaders like A. B. Bardhan, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Prakash Karat, Jayalalitha, Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar, Sharad Yadav etc. were playing a major role in it. The leaders who were engaged in the making of the Third Front got busy in election campaign saying that after the election results were out, the Third Front would take shape and form a government at the centre. However this statement by them has not convinced the general public. The obvious reason for this is the opportunistic and unstable behavior of some of the leaders who talk about the Third Front. The civil society during discussions with the media or otherwise, often ridicule the very idea of a third front. The actual reason for this derision is the fear that the hold of the corporate capitalism can be somewhat challenged only by the Third Front. And this is not acceptable to the members of the elite civil society and its media.
         Most regional parties, who claim to be the champions of social justice, are not direct agents of neo-liberalism like the Congress and the BJP. Their social base comes in the way of their open support to neo-liberalism. That is why it is generally observed that leaders of these parties do not support capitalism openly. Rather, they often oppose it in their statements and resolutions. The capitalist-communalist nexus which has a hold over the country’s politics can be checked up to a limit by only the Third Front that includes left parties and an outside support by the Congress.
          The struggle for alternative politics started with the implementation of the new economic policies at the beginning of the 90’s, has been destroyed by the Narendra Modi “tsunami”, facilitated, to a large extent, by the combined effect of the anti-corruption movement launched by India Against Corruption (IAC) and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). It is true that the deprived masses can find relief only by establishing an alternative political system, based on the principles of the Constitution, replacing the neo-liberal one. Kishan Patnaik, the socialist thinker of repute,  delineated a concrete outline for an alternative political ideology and political culture as well, one in which capitalism and the recklessly expensive spectacle of circus politics is fundamentally opposed. He calls for the establishment of an independent, self-reliant, socialist, economic nationalism. But it will take a long time to re-establish that struggle starting from scratch. It will be easier if the Third Front government comes and stays in power at least for 5 years. If the corporate lackeys form a government again at the centre, then it is possible that the capitalist-communalist nexus will completely wipe out the slightest possibility of an alternative. For this the Congress has to act sensibly, and see that it sincerely supports the Third Front government for 5 years and get rid of the neo-liberal policies it has implemented to come back in the game.
         By declaring and promulgating their prime ministerial candidate in advance, the BJP has actually made a move against the Third Front and not the Congress. The BJP knows that the Congress will not come to power for the third time. Lest the public lends its support to the Third Front because of the similar economic policies of both the parties, the BJP has declared their prime ministerial candidate before hand and spent money on an unprecedented scale. The BJP knows that the most contentious issue in the Third Front is the question : who will become the prime minister? The leaders trying to form the Third Front generally talk about the number-strength in this case. Learning from the Janata Party government of 1977, one can see that a candidate from a party with a very few seats too can also be made prime minister. One such name could be the senior most leader of CPI, A. B. Bardhan who has a clear understanding and stand as far as neo-liberalism and communalism are concerned. Alongside there can be two deputy prime ministers on the basis of number-strength.
     The Third Front should also include those smaller parties that are constantly struggling against the neo- liberal and communal nexus and are truly socialist and secular, although they have no presence in the Parliament or the legislative assemblies. There has been a constant dialogue and correspondence between Mr. Bardhan and the Socialist Party president Bhai Vaidya (former secretary general of the Janata Party and Home Minister of Maharashtra) and Justice Rajindar Sachar on this subject for the past more than one year. Some months before the elections, I had written to A.B. Bardhan suggesting the names of some parties and leaders to be included in the Third Front. I along with Justice Sachar have discussed this matter with Nitish Kumar, Chief Minister of Bihar and K. C. Tyagi, secretary general of the JD (U) and a member of the Third Front’s coordination committee.
It should not be a matter of anxiety that the smaller parties will ask for their share in the power. These parties can function as the nearest critics of the Third Front government. Such an arrangement will help in building a national image and impact of the Third Front. If the corporate brunt is lessened in the next 5 years, the public will naturally increase its support for the Third Front, and later it can emerge as a significant political force all over the country.
           Even if a third front government does not take shape and place in the current situation, the efforts in this direction should go on. Public revolt against the Congress and the BJP governments will be sharpened in the coming days. The combination of corporate houses, media and civil society cannot sustain this “manufactured consent” in favor of neo-liberal regime for a long time. The making of a much publicized neo-liberal India could be the dream of a selected few youth of the country. The larger community, comprising of the dalit, tribal, backward, minority, poor forward castes youth, can finally realize their dream of a socialist, secular and democratic India. If the politics of the Third Front assumes center stage, those ideas, ideologies, discourses and streams of literary-cultural creativity which have been forcibly suppressed under boundary of neo-liberalism can get new meaning and space.

About the author

Dr. Prem Singh is a former fellow, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, teacher of Hindi at Delhi University and General Secretary of Socialist Party (India).

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