Eight-party front: national ambition without national leaders

By Sri Krishna


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New Delhi : The Indian political scenario is getting curiouser and curiouser with the emergence of yet another political front Wednesday.

Led by former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha and coming two years ahead of the next general elections, this new eight-party grouping wants to take on the mantel of a "viable alternative" to the existing political combinations.

But stalwarts of older fronts aren't impressed.

"It is nothing but an opportunistic combination. It has no programme and I don't take it seriously," Communist Party of India National Secretary D Raja told IANS.

The Congress could not be unhappy with the emergence of yet another grouping, which would only divide the opposition further.

Congress media in-charge Tom Vadakkan said, "This is part of democracy and we are happy an opposition is coming up. Hope they will play the role of a responsible opposition."

For the BJP, though, it appears to be a moment to re-assess its position in the political arena, especially after the massive setback it suffered in the Uttar Pradesh elections.

Advocating a "wait and watch" attitude, its spokesman Prakash Javadekar said: "We don't want to react now."

There are two common threads in the new front.

First, except for former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and Samajwadi Party (SP) President Mulayam Singh Yadav, all others have at one time or the other been members of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

The grouping comprises Jayalalitha's AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, Telugu Desam Party (TDP), MDMK, Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), Kerala Congress and Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (JVM) with Kerala Congress sending a letter to join the front.

Second, all the key constituent-parties and leaders are losers at assembly elections: Mulayam in Uttar Pradesh, Chandra Babu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh, Om Prakash Chautala in Haryana and Babulal Marandi in Jharkhand.

Jayalalitha too lost out to archrival M. Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu.

So whether this combination will be able to emerge as a real force in Indian politics remains to be seen.

The new front differs from previous groupings in that its members have to rebuild their parties in the states before emerging as a political force at the Centre.

Another major inhibiting factor is that all the parties are regional, whereas the Congress and BJP are national parties who are the principal poles in the two national alliances – the UPA and NDA.

The conclave, the second so far, has attracted the participation of two more parties – the JVM and MDMK.

But the JVM and MDMK are virtually fringe parties in their respective states.