India needs a Genuine Third Front – Not this Opportunist Alliance
On the eve of Lok Sabha polls, the launch of a ‘Third Front’ spearheaded by the efforts of the CPI-CPI (M) has been announced. The Front, it is claimed, is a non-Congress, non-BJP front committed to ‘alternate policies’. Most of the non-Left Front partners (such as AIADMK, TDP, TRS, JD(S)) have at one point or the other been partners of either NDA or UPA or both. Some parties (such as BJD, BSP) have maintained a cautious pre-poll distance from the Third Front but are being touted as post-poll partners.
The establishment of coalition governments as the norm for over a decade reflects the eroded credibility of the main ruling class formations – the Congress and BJP – and the rise of a range of third forces. There is unmistakeable frustration and anger at successive NDA and UPA Governments and their anti-poor, pro-imperialist policy orientation. Clearly, there is an objective need for a credible Third Front. The question is: can a rag-tag coalition ever constitute a meaningful Third Front? Isn’t a vibrant Left movement and a powerful democratic consolidation around a powerful Left course a necessary foundation for any viable, serious, and durable Third Front?
The ‘Third Front’ as it stands today is a highly amorphous formation riddled with paradoxes. It is neither a full-fledged pre-poll alliance nor a well-defined programmatic coalition. Partners like the TDP have been enthusiastic proponents of disastrous neo-liberal policies; as for the track record of partners like TDP, AIADMK, or JD(S) on secularism and democracy, the less said the better. Potential post-poll partners like the BJD and BSP have an equally dubious and tainted record on both neo-liberal policies (the BSP has the distinction of being the only party without a declared economic policy) and secularism.
More importantly, the current arrangement ignores the fact that there is a distinct and crucial difference between ‘Third Front government’ (or non-NDA non-UPA government) and ‘Third Front’. A Third Front in its true sense can be nothing but a Left and democratic front that is a powerful voice of a third alternative – in policies, in vision, in people’s movements – but which may not necessarily be in a position to form Government. Only such a Third Front can be in any way durable, sustainable and credible. What is being called a ‘Third Front’ at this juncture is very different: it is merely a potential power-sharing that might emerge in view of the possibility that neither UPA nor NDA might achieve a majority in the impending Parliamentary polls – an eventuality that is difficult to predict with any degree of certainty. Surely a genuine Third Front cannot be a mere exercise in Government formation?
The role of the Left parties, CPI and CPI(M), in such a coalition is yet another paradox. On the one hand these parties face major setbacks in their strongholds of Kerala and West Bengal. On the other, CPI(M) leaders have spoken of the possibility of joining a Third Front government at the centre! Answering questions from the Press at the release of the party manifesto, CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat indicated that the question of joining a Third Front Government at the Centre is very much open. The CPI(M), since its ‘historic blunder’ of 1996, has systematically removed all the programmatic roadblocks to being part of a government at the Centre – it is now free to join any Central Government which it claims to be in a position to ‘influence’.
The CPI(ML) has made it clear that a role in Government formation is not on its agenda or priorities. The Party is contesting this election with the agenda of asserting a fighting Left opposition within Parliament. The seat adjustment forged by the party in Bihar with CPI and CPI(M) is quite distinct from any ongoing ‘Third Front’ efforts of those parties. This adjustment is based on the CPI(ML)’s consistent efforts in the direction of joint activities and electoral adjustments with Left formations. While there has been no let up in our firm and sustained struggle against the CPI-CPI(M)’s opportunist tactics on the whole and anti-people policies and measures in LF-ruled states, the latter have, in the objective conditions of Bihar at this particular juncture (the closing of doors of alliance with the UPA partners and the impact among Left ranks in the state of CPI(ML)’s practice of independent left assertion) responded positively to our appeal for adjustment in the Lok Sabha polls in Bihar. We hold that a meaningful Third Front can only be forged on a Left basis. The ongoing adjustment achieved by the CPI (ML), CPI and CPI (M) in Bihar is certainly linked in a strategic sense to the efforts and experiments in the direction of such a genuine Third Front – efforts and experiments marked by a consistent and principled element of struggle as well as of unity of purpose.
The ruling class design to subject the polity to a duopoly of the UPA and NDA must be frustrated. But a rag-tag ‘third front’ that offers no policy alternative and is crowded by forces with dubious track record cannot face this challenge. Only a powerful Left and democratic camp drawing its strength from the struggles and aspirations of the Indian people for a better tomorrow can be the most effective bulwark against the ruling classes’ attempt to regiment the polity, and can be the basis for a principled and consistent third alternative and Third Front.