India’s Third Front Dilemma

India needs more than opposition groups like the Third Front to unify the nation and to ensure stability.

third-front-indiaThe Indian political scene is abuzz with action at the onslaught of approaching elections. Bargaining with allies, negotiations, and experimenting with new combinations are all part of the game to wrest power at the national scene.

Recently, eleven parties got together to present an alternative to government formation by national parties like the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party. These eleven parties include the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Biju Janata Dal, Asom Gana ParishadJanata Dal (Secular), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha and four leftist parties.

India presents a fine example of balancing unity with diversity with its parliamentary federal form of government. Although India’s United National Progressive Alliance (or Third Front), which was created as an alliance of ten different political parties in March 2009, promises to foster parallel regional voices to the mainstream, it stops short of standing up to the test of times.

To respect India’s heterogeneous character is mandatory but not at the price of fomenting instability

The parties which are allies of the third front have not defined their common meeting grounds or unified agenda. Merely being an opposition group to national parties shall do no good. The need of the hour is a stable government which shall lead the nation towards consolidation of gains made and progress towards new avenues. The third front has balkanized the Indian politics with petty bickering.

Politics is the art of deception. The third front tries to present an alternative to the masses without exposing their quest for greater power. Furthermore, there are inherent contradictions: it shall be a chimera to expect the Samajwadi Party to cooperate with the BSP- Bahujan Samaj Party, or CPI- Communist Party of India to bandwagon with the TMC – Trinamool Congress.

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The very start of the third front idea is presenting a complex picture. The journey might be troublesome indeed whose real burden shall come on the citizenry in the form of a confusion filled government. There has been no debate on what their joint program could be like where compatibility among them has been far-fetched from the start.

The leadership shall face trickier challenges as the presence of powerful players like Naveen Patnaik in Orissa or Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu shall make it difficult to work out a consensus.  Moreover, their call for pro-people, anti-communal and federal agenda shall do no good with inherent contradictory agendas and ideology pursued by different political strands of the third front idea.

Democracy at the time of elections indeed throws up new avenues to ponder over. The idea of the third front in the Indian case is surely one of it. The coalition era is the saga of current reality. The third front definitely tries to play on this reality but refuses to touch upon the crucial aspect of coalition management which is essential for understanding the nuances of running the polity. Thus, it shall be difficult to imagine the smooth running of the government then.

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Dr. Amna Mirza is an Assistant Professor in Political Studies at a College in University of Delhi. Read other articles by Amna.