The 2004 elections saw the Congress and BJP winning 26.7% and 25.4% of the seats in the Lok Sabha respectively. The contest was mostly about adding more parties to the UPA and the NDA, and when the UPA captured the support of the Left, Sonia Gandhi was invited to take power as Leader of the Government though whatsoever were the facts behind Dr. Manmohan Singh choosen to be PM.
The Congress has however, failed to really capitalize on its position of power. India's anti-incumbency trend seems quite sure to hit them, where the electorate simply removes the party in power for failure to fulfill their initial promises. While the UPA managed to withstand the withdrawal of the the Left (over the Indian-US Nuclear Agreement) by winning the No-Confidence motion, 26/11 and the poor following response might just be the death knell. The victors of the 1999 elections, the BJP (through the NDA) have themselves experienced India's penchant for anti-incumbency, when their 'India Shining' campaign spectacularly backfired and had them sitting in the Opposition. Ordinarily, the BJP would be expected by most pundits to take this election. Preference for a more liberalized and capitalistic economy coupled with a hardliner stance towards terrorism should have put them in pole position. However, the BJP suffers from a lack of leadership, with LK Advani remaining the sole Prime Ministerial Candidate. Due to old age and poor health, the popular AB Vajpayee will hardly be able to lead for another term, whereas the demise of the General Secretary Pramod Mahajan, the leader of the Young BJP, ensures that the BJP is not as strong as before.
And within all this, the Third Front has risen. The idea of a Non-Congress and Non-BJP government seems less than absurd now; many view it as plausible and a few even see it as desirable. So who exactly are joining hands to make GeneralElections 2009 a tripartite contest? Well, as per the announcement on 12th March at Tumkur, Karnataka, the following parties will be part of the Third Front:
Janata Dal (Secular), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, Revolutionary Socialist Party, Forward Bloc, Telugu Desam Party, AIADMK, Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Bahjuan Samaj Party
To put them into a more familiar context, some of the party leaders include:
HD Deve Gowda, Prakash Karat, AB Bardhan, K Chandrashekhar, Jayalalitha and last, but perhaps the most important, Mayawati.
Not a bad list, is it? A former Prime Minister, the General Secretary of India's premier communist party and Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu as well as the Nation's most important political state Uttar Pradesh. Definitely not one to be dismissed easily.
The biggest dilemma the Third Front would face would be regarding the Prime Ministerial Candidate. A clash of egos for the top job, would destroy the definite chances, and the sooner consensus can be reached for a candidate, the stronger the Third Front's chances. Mayawati has been touted by many as a possible candidate, but other leaders will not give in so easily.
Will such a party be good for India? Will it break the hegemony of the Congress and the BJP and give Indians the government they have always been yearning for? Or will it be one huge mess dominated by increasing caste politics and taking the economy towards its socialist (less free) roots again?
The answer as always can only be determined in the last year of a Lok Sabha's tenure; whether it has done enough to win successive elections? The BJP thought they had done impressively; the voters thought otherwise. Will the Congress face the same fate?
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