The Third Alliance

Editorial: March 2014

Hardnews Bureau Delhi

Recently, the capital witnessed the leaders of 11 parties meeting together to chalk out a non-Congress non-BJP front. This is different from the block that would traditionally emerge to thwart the Congress. Remember 1977, 1989, when all the non-Congress parties – mostly old socialists – came together to form the Janata Dal to fight the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty for its alleged undemocratic and corrupt ways. First, Jayaprakash Narayan, and later VP Singh and Devi Lal were behind the unified Janata Parivar. On both occasions, these formations managed to overthrow the Congress government – albeit with the support of both the Left and the Right. In 1996 the United Front government was formed to prevent the BJP and the Congress from coming power. Fight against communal and corrupt forces was the glue. Demolition of Babari Masjid in 1992 prompted the communists and the regional parties to come together. After the collapse of the UF, the some regional parties joined the BJP led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Everything was fine for this non-Congress rainbow coalition, till it started cracking up after the horrific 2002 Gujarat riots. Suddenly, standing alongside with the BJP was seen as not just embarrassing, but political haemorrhaging for parties like DMK, TDP and Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). Secularism began to re-define politics again. Congress and its United Progressive Alliance was the beneficiary.

In some ways 1996 is repeating itself. 10 years of UPA rule of rampant corruption and poor quality of governance has opened up politics like never before. The anti-corruption movement led by Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal not only brought to the fore the hatred ordinary people had for the venal political class, but also significantly eroded the legitimacy of the Congress. Unlike past interventions by the likes of JP Narayan and VP Singh to create a political alternative around existing political orthodoxies, Kejriwal decided to build a party that is in its approach, somewhat nihilist. It has shown it is not fond of the Constitution and the authority it imparts to the elected. Instead, Kejriwal wants to explore a space that may not really exist beyond the big cities, which many categorise as post-ideological and post-casteist. His party’s stunning success in the Delhi Assembly election raised hopes that it was possible to build a political outfit that gave precedence to merit over caste and religion. Its reluctance to align itself with other non-Congress parties betrays either arrogance or a hopeless misreading of Indian political reality. If he does not ally with other regional parties then he would help the BJP prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi to come to power. The left parties that are linking the regional parties had welcomed the rise of AAP, but later recanted when they realized its implications. The initiative of the Left parties holds great promise. Going by the geographical spread of these parties, they can be dismissed only at one’s own peril. BJP is the most vociferous in its criticism of this Front as it realizes how it can put a spoke in their ambitions. Take a look at how they are stacking up. This non-Congress, non-BJP alliance can count five CMs in its leadership, besides other important players. Together they are capable of winning 220 odd seats and thus deciding on who rules Delhi. If the Congress supports them, they could be in a position to form the government. In 2009, the Left parties’ alliance with Jayalalithaa had prevented her from joining with the BJP. It seems this time, too, it is serving a similar purpose. The Front has no prime ministerial candidate as it would wait till the results come out. It is possible that the arithmetic within this space might favour Jayalalithaa, if she brings in the maximum number of MPs. Her manifesto betrays her national ambitions. Or it could be Mulayam Singh Yadav, if he repeats the magic of the 2012 Assembly elections – which is unlikely. The success of this Front would depend not only on how zealous the regional forces are in preserving their character, but also on how they want to perceive Delhi and the Indian nation state.

This story is from the print issue of Hardnews: MARCH 2014