Updated: Apr 9, 2019
Rise of the Third Front
Elections are around the corner and it has charged every Indian with a different energy. Though many opinions are available, the elections have turned into just two sides: Modi and Not-Modi. If not Modi, then who? Rahul Gandhi? OK fine, but will Congress have that mandate to ensure Rahul's Prime Ministership.
This article focuses more on the elections of 2024 and 2029. Modi wave hit India in 2014 but even then Regional parties like TMC, SP, BSP, JDU, TRS, etc. maintained there vote share if not seat share. There is a huge section of society which neither goes with the NDA nor UPA but the parties they vote for end up support UPA or NDA in the centre. This is changing, Regional parties are increasingly understanding that Congress is weak and a federal front can be established as an alternative to the BJP. And the rising star of this idea is Telangana Rashtra Samithi chief KCR. KCR is a leader who has been continuously refrained from sharing the stage with any leader of Congress or BJP and its leaders have repeatedly emphasised that the need of the hour is a federal government. KCR is one leader who is extremely popular in his state, Telangana. His govt. have helped set up various industries and public friendly schemes such as Aarogya Lakshmi scheme, Aasara pension Amma Odi & KCR Kit Double Bedroom Housing scheme and Kalyana Lakshmi - Shaadi Mubarak. His state has accumulated huge amounts of the loan to fund these schemes, however, it is a topic for another time. He is widely admired and he also tried in 2018 to form a third front excluding Congress but due to some reason, talks failed and various regional political parties and even TMC drifted towards UPA. The “Mahagatbandhan” as it is termed by the public is a group of political parties who have formed alliances in all the states against BJP to restrict the split of Anti- BJP votes. The Mahagatbandhan also includes Congress.
Congress was a big contributor to the formation of the grand alliance but after it won Vidhan Sabha elections in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, it started demanding more seats from its alliance partners which they were reluctant to give. Their argument was that Congress won those seats because of anti-incumbency and its influence was the same as before. This disagreement left Mahagatbandhan broken in many states like West Bengal where Congress, CPI(M) and TMC are all fighting without any alliance giving an advantage to the BJP which is trying to make inroads in West Bengal for several years and in recent times have made significant progress. Another state is UP where an alliance of BSP-SP-RLD have left out congress making the quest for 80 seats (14.7% of total seats) triangular. This betrayal or not standing up for its commitments by the Congress have led many parties to believe that Congress is not a party that they can rely on. BJP does not score much either on the treatment of smaller allies. It broke away 2 of the 3 MLA of its ally MGP in Goa just because there were rumours that MGP may withdraw support from the NDA govt. after the death of Shree Manohar Parikar. Same tensions existed with Shiv Sena, an ally in Maharashtra but both parties have sorted their differences and allied for upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
If we believe most of the opinion polls, NDA is set to win the 2019 elections(with lesser seats than 2014) and Congress will be the one to blame for the inefficiency of the Mahagatbandhan. This will be deciding moment for Indian politics because now regional parties will have to decide whether they want Congress with them or not. If not, then TMC in West Bengal, TRS in Telangana, BJD of Odisha are most likely to float the initial Third front alliance later to be joined by others. The centre is often blamed by states that it holds too much power and the states are left with very less power, this might be the one binding reason for powerful state parties to fight as one in 2024 general elections. If all parties like TMC, AIADMK, YSRCP, TRS, JDS, BJD, SP-BSP, RLD, NC, INLD and other smaller parties could form an agreement comfortable to all then it could turn the tables of 2024 elections. Coalition govt. made by small parties is not new to India but they all failed. The first coalition of this type was Morarji Desai led Janata party govt. in 1977 which survived for just 2 years. If these regional parties want to survive in the new political environment created by BJP, they have to bind together and be more flexible than ever and try to accommodate as many allies as possible. A new third front alliance for 2024 polls will also give a choice to those voters who neither want a congress govt. nor a BJP one in the centre. But a big roadblock to this rosy alliance will be to choose the PM candidate from the alliance. That is a sphere where many will have to compromise but will they be able to do that? We know from the British era, that we Indians are not that good in making alliances even when existence is threatened. Have we changed? Will India be able to see a Federal Govt. in the near future?