Prospects of Third Front are not looking too good

ET Now caught up with Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar, Consulting Editor, ET Now, for his take on the Third Front and whether it will be able to shake up the Indian politics or not. Excerpts:

ET Now: Will the Third Front shake up the Indian politics or not?

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: At this point of time, the prospects are not looking too good. This particular combination might win 100 to 130 seats in Parliament, a clear minority. If the BJP is unable to get enough seats, there is a possibility then that you have a minority Third Front government supported from outside by the BJP, just like between 1996 and 1998 there was a minority Third Front government supported from outside by the Congress. But if you go back to 1990s, the Congress had the power to pull the rug any time, and they pulled the rug from Deve Gowda within 11 months.

So, if at all this Third Front becomes a power, it is just possible that if the BJP cannot form a government, then you get a Third Front government supported from outside. But these guys are not the kind that wants to be supported from outside by the BJP. It is a Left wing group which is significantly more anti-BJP than anti-Congress. So whether they will be able to form a government, I do not think the Congress will have enough numbers that this Third Front plus the Congress can in fact form a government.

ET Now: Who will be the possible Prime Ministerial candidate? It is ill-famous to being a battle of big egos?

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: Well, if you go back to the experience of 1996-1998, because some of the big guns could not agree to allow the big guns to come in, they ultimately decided that only a non-entity will become the Prime Minister and so one non-entity, Deve Gowda, was followed by another non-entity in Gujarat. So whom are we looking for the next Prime Minister under the Third Front, I do not think it will be any of the big names. It will probably be a complete non-entity and there are so many non-entities in India that you can say 100 guys have a chance.

ET Now: So, is there a greater possibility of the Third Front wearing towards the Congress post elections to stop Modi?

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: There is no question that Prakash Karat’s own inclinations are far more anti-BJP than anti-Congress. But let us face it, the idea that these guys will entirely hold together as an anti-BJP front has no credibility because many of these parties were part of the national democratic alliance under Vajpayee. Naveen Patnaik was out there for instance, Jayalalitha at one point of time was there, Nitish Kumar was out there. Thus, many of these parties have in the past been with the NDA. So even though they have come together in this 11 party front, whether that will stick, whether it will really hold in the face of a substantial BJP vote remains to be seen. I would be sceptical.

ET Now: Do you think the AAP policies are very Left wing oriented?

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: The AAP does not easily fit anywhere. In fact, I heard Yogendra Yadav saying that we will not be part of the Congress coalition, we will not be part of the BJP coalition and we will not be part of the Third Front. He ruled out all the three. Now, what happens after the election becomes another matter. At this point of time, the AAP is attempting to on its own. It says we are a new kind of party. May be Aam Aadmi at some point of time in favourable circumstances does align with the Third Front if it has chance of forming a government. I will not rule out the possibility, but at this point of time the AAP has said it is neither with the Congress nor the BJP nor with the Third Front.

ET Now: In the block of 11 parties, the two absentees were Mamta Banerjee and Mayawati. Were both the ladies towards the Third Front or can they also join hands with Narendra Modi?

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: They have been with the BJP in the past. Mamta was part of the NDA government. She was railway minister in the NDA government. Mayawati has again and again formed a coalition government in Uttar Pradesh along with the BJP. So in any fundamental sense, they are not opposed to the BJP. Whether they will actually join the BJP after the elections, remains to be seen, but nobody should assume that they are instinctively and fundamentally anti-BJP.

I will add, however, one thing – Mamta’s position in West Bengal hinges very significantly on an alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami. This was not always the case, but definitely became the case during the Singur agitation and afterwards. Because of her more recent alliance with the Jamaat, she would find it very difficult to ally with Modi now even though she did so in the past.

ET Now: Nitish is on the back floor in Bihar, Left on a shaky ground in Bengal and Kerala, Mulayam in no great position in UP. I mean can this great alliance come together which is being made on a weak premise to begin with?

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: The way you are putting it, the so-called grand alliance is actually a not-so-grand alliance. It is the people who are losing ground, saying that if we do not hang together, we will hand separately. That is the kind of philosophy on which they are coming together and I regret to say they may even hang together.

ET Now: Does the fear regarding the Third Front has any base or the current fear is slightly unfounded?

Swaminathan S Anklesaria Aiyar: I would say that compared with the Modi government, a Third Front government would definitely be less economy friendly, less business friendly. There is no doubt about it. The Left wing orientation in many parties of the Third Front is well known whereas Modi very clearly has a strong focus on improving the business climate. He has shown this in Gujarat and certainly some of that will rub off even in a difficult position in New Delhi.

So that much is true. However, I will add that the Third Front governments have turned out not to be so bad as some people thought in 1996-1998. It was certainly true that there was no overall focus, there was a very weak Prime Minister followed by a even weaker Prime Minister, but precisely because the Prime Minister was weak, the Cabinet ministers look very strong.

Therefore, you could have an individual Cabinet minister like Mr Chidambaram producing a dream budget, highly business-friendly budget and highly forward-looking budget despite the fact that it is a Left leaning coalition and the Communist Party of India was actually a member of that government. So, all is not lost by any means.

What do you think?