Third Front launched to counter BJP, Congress (Second Lead)

March 12th, 2009 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Tumkur (Karnataka), March 12 (IANS) Ten parties from across the country came together at a massive rally here Thursday to launch a Third Front as an alternative to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the general elections beginning next month.
Former prime minister and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda, the prime force behind the show of strength, and leaders of six other regional parties and four Left parties called upon the people to vote for a “democratic and secular” government in the April-May Lok Sabha polls.

In attendance, besides the JD-S, were leaders of the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Communist Party of India (CPI), the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), the Forward Bloc, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the AIADMK, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and late entrant Haryana Janhit Congress.

CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat, who was the first to address the rally in Tumkur, about 60 km from the state capital Bangalore, described the launch of the Third Front as historic.

“This is a historic get-together of all the democratic, secular and Left parties to declare that we are all coming together to constitute a third force in this country,” declared Karat.

He said the non-BJP, non-Congress coalition would stand for the interests of the vast majority of Indians, defend secular values and fight for social justice.

“Today, we have come together because the country needs a new alternative,” he added.

“It is a platform to fight for social justice, to fight against communal forces.”

Lashing out at critics who called the Third Front a group of disparate parties coming together on an opportunistic platform, Karat said: “Our parties reflect the diversity of the country and democracy is strengthened by it.”

Karat, whose party withdrew support to the Congress-led government in July last year over the India-US nuclear deal, said successive governments had failed to resolve grave economic problems confronting the country.

The CPI-M leader recalled the United Front government led by Deve Gowda that took office in 1996 with the backing of the Left.

“In 1996, the people of India came to know that the future of this country does not lie with either the Congress party or the BJP,” he said.

He said those who think that the Third Front was unstable should look at the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) or the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). “These alliances are not durable. UPA does not exist because the Congress has declared there is no national alliance.”

And the NDA, he said, was falling apart.

He said the Congress has failed to meet the aspirations of the people, and the BJP since its inception had been dividing people along communal lines.

“Even a serious threat of terrorism is seen by the BJP through communal lenses,” Karat said.

CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan said: “We are not an alternative for power but for policy and programmes. Our coming together is not a sudden development. Groundwork was laid by the course of developments in the last two years.”

He was confident that Orissa chief minister and Biju Janata Dal leader Naveen Patnaik, who parted ways with the BJP last week, would soon join the Third Front.

“We will give Naveen time. He wants time to take a decision. We are confident that he will find his way to us. He will not go with the Congress or go back to the BJP.”

Ticking off BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu for calling the Third Front a “third rate front”, he said: “It is a third rate remark.”

He said he would like to contradict BJP prime ministerial candidate L. K. Advani who said there was no place for a third force as the country had become bipolar.

“The BJP front has receded far into the background,” Bardhan asserted.

Satish Mishra of the BSP said: “We are not a third alternative. We are the only alternative to provide a good economic and independent foreign policy. After the elections, the Congress and the BJP would be rooted out.”

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