Democratic India has a multi-party system with a predominance of small regional parties that can take one'sbreath away because of their sheer numbers. If there are only six ?national? parties, there are 47 ?state? parties, but what comes as a surprise is that there are 730 ?registered unrecognised? parties, as noted by the Election Commission.
In the 14th Lok Sabha, the Congress had 145 seats, the BJP 138, the CPM 43, the Samajwadi Party 36, the Rashtriya Janata Dal 24, the Bahujan Samaj Party 19, the DMK 16, Shiv Sena 12, the Biju Janata Dal 11, the CPI 10, the Nationalist Congress Party 9, the JDU and the Shiromani Akali Dal 8 each, to identify the top thirteen. For a country of 1.2 billion people divided into 22 states linguistically, this is hardly surprising.
Following the death of Indira Gandhi, political parties tended to increase in numbers. Had Indira Gandhi not been assassinated it is doubtful whether she would have been re-elected. The Congress had started to wilt. Garibi hatao had lost its sheen. The concept of socialism had lost its glamour. Secularism was seen more as a vote-getting device than ought else. It had ceased to capture public imagination.
The Bharatiya Janata Party seemed to offer a perspective that the country was waiting for and largely willing to accept. Importantly, the BJP had a leader of national eminence: Atal Behari Vajpayee who finally made it to the top. The BJP still has a leader of pre-eminence in Lal Krishna Advani. No other party has a leader of status comparable to his. Dr Manmohan Singh has had his day. Sharad Pawar is gunning for the prime ministerial gadi, though he is unlikely to get it.
Frenetic discussions are going on behind the scenes to lock up allies, but meanwhile half a dozen parties have formed a Third Front and between them they hope to bag around 90 seats in Parliament. That won'ttake the Third Front anywhere. And whatever the hype, the member parties seem only too aware of the fact. When the third Front as was ?officially launched? on March 12, BSP leader Mayavati, AIADMK leader J.Jayalalithaa and HJHC leader Bhajan Lal were conspicuous by their absence. They merely sent their representatives which indicated what they thought of the ?hiatoric? occasion.
In Bengal, following the tie-up between the Congress and the Trinamul Congress, the Leftists are bound to lose a few seats, but so what? That won'thurt the BJP which hasn'tgot much of a foothold in the state anyway. The UPA as a whole has little to show. Yet, whichever of the major parties?Congress and the BJP?is asked to form a government, constituent parties of the so-called Third Front will be up for sale. Sharad Pawar and Mayavati will be the main contenders and if the Shiv Sena vote will help Pawar get a majority, it will have no hesitation to desert the BJP.
For the Shiv Sena it is not loyalty that counts but narrow regional chauvinis. It voted in the past for Pratibha Patil as President and it will vote for Pawar if the situation calls for it. Even before the elections are on, infighting among the Third Front constituents has begun in right earnest. No wonder, both the Congress and the BJP are dismissive of the Third Front, and quite rightly so. It has no ideology in the first place. For each constituent, it is power for power'ssake. The Leftists have a notorious past. The CPI in the early forties betrayed the Congress and Congressmen during the Quit India struggle, and got several of them arrested, jailed and tortured. The CPI also supported the creation of Pakistan and partition. Violent rebellion was the brainchild of another Communist monster, B T Ranadive. That, for the information of the voter is the Leftist record.
Deve Gowda speaks about secularism. His party is totally communal and whether he heads only the Gowda?Vekkaliga?community as the declaims, the fact remains otherwise. Mayavati, one of the most corrupt politicians in India?this has been exposed by Ajoy Bose in his revealing book Behnji?will only bring disgrace to the country if nominated for Prime Ministerhood. If at all anybody gets badly hurt to the Third Front'ssupposed challenge, it will be the Congress. The BJP'sbase is secure and will remain so, despite the surliness shown by some of its leaders.
The non-Congress space in states like Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Delhi, not to speak of Karnataka and Gujarat is occupied by the BJP. It has nothing to worry over. It is Congress which will get victimised. No wonder, the Congress spokesman has complained that the Third Front will only help the BJP, as the so-called ?secular? vote will get divided and the ultimate loser will be the Congress. What is likely to happen is that the Third Front will come third in the winners? list which will initiate an intense period of soul-selling. The individual parties of the Third Front will start bargaining with both the Congress and the BJP to gain maximum benefit. It will be a form of blackmailing of which our regional parties are pretty well-versed.
One explanation for the formation of the Third Front is that the regional parties don'twant to get irrelevant following the elections. The truth is that no matter what, the parties most certainly become irrelevant. At the same time they may cause damage to the democratic fabric of the country and could even invite President'sRule. There are three ways of handling the situation. One is for the enactment of a law or a change in the Constitution that denies a party that does not get a certain percentage of polled votes the right to be invited to a coalition.
Another is for both the Congress and the BJP to let the coalition into power and get it defeated on a vote of confidence. The third and wisest is for the Congress and the BJP to team up under one leader, preferably L K Advani, to rule the country to the larger and wholesome benefit of the people at large. It would be win-win situation. At that point in time the Third Front will disappear like the morning mist. India'stragedy is that politics has become regional and cross-states leadership has yet to develop. Just as bad is the lack of a nation-wide vision that attracts people from all parts of the country. A coalition of conflicting parties whose only aim is to seek power can only destroy the country'sdemocratic structure and lead it to ruin. In the circumstances it should be the duty of every citizen in India to throw out the power-aspirants of the Third Front with firm determination. They are the enemies of the nation. As the Bible rightly points out, where there is no reason, the people perish.
The Third Front will disappear like the morning mist. India'stragedy is that politics has become regional and cross-states leadership has yet to develop. Just as bad is the lack of a nation-wide vision that attracts people from all parts of the country. A coalition of conflicting parties whose only aim is to seek power can only destroy the country'sdemocratic structure and lead it to ruin.