Third Front takes off, Congress, BJP say nothing to worry (Roundup)

March 12th, 2009 - 8:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Tumkur (Karnataka), March 12 (IANS) Left and regional parties from across the country Thursday launched a Third Front at a massive rally here as an alternative to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the general elections beginning next month but the two national parties asserted the grouping would not hurt their poll prospects.
The rally was addressed by leaders of the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), the prime force behind the show of strength, 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 the late entrant Haryana Janhit Congress.

They urged people to vote for a “democratic and secular’ government in the April-May Lok Sabha polls but did not give any indication of the structure of the Third Front or whether its constituents will contest the polls on a common agenda, though JD-S leader and former prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda had said “a message will be conveyed” at the rally.

Deve Gowda hosted the breakfast for the leaders at which they discussed the outlines of the programme to be adopted in building an alternative to the two alliances led by the Congress and the BJP, respectively.

The launch of the Third Front was described by CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat as “historic” while his CPI counterpart A.B. Bardhan declared it will come to power after the 2009 polls.

The Congress and BJP were, however, unfazed. Both said the new formation would not last long.

Downplaying the “get-together” of 10 parties, the Congress described the new formation as “an unprincipled alliance” while the BJP said it would “vanish in the air” after the polls.

Congress Working Committee (CWC) member and general secretary V. Narayanasamy said: “Definitely, they are not at all a threat to the UPA (United Progressive Alliance). They are only for power. They don’t have any policies and programmes. The alliance will not continue for long.”

BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain, a former union minister, said: “The alliance will vanish in the air as they will go either with the NDA (National Democratic Alliance) or UPA after the elections.

The rally was ‘inaugurated’ by Deve Gowda more than an hour before other leaders joined him on the dais.

The JD-S leader, a staunch believer in astrology, lit the lamp to mark the inauguration of the rally at around 11.45 a.m. Only his party members and a few Karnataka leaders of Left parties were present on the dais at that time.

While the JD-S said 400,000 people attended the rally, police estimated the crowd to be at around 100,000 to bring whom the party had deployed over 3,000 vehicles.

Karat and other leaders asserted that theirs was a growing force and many more parties will join before and after the elections.

He said those who think that the Third Front was unstable should look at the UPA or NDA. “These alliances are not durable. UPA does not exist because the Congress has declared there is no national alliance.” And the NDA, Karat said, was falling apart.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati of BSP took the Left and JD-S leaders by surprise by sending her trusted lieutenant Satish Mishra by a special plane to address the rally.

“Everybody is surprised that Behenji (as Mayawati is called by his followers) has sent her confidant by a special plane. I thank Left leaders for making effort to get Mayawati to send her representative to the rally,” Deve Gowda said.

While Mayawati made known her decision late Wednesday, another surprise was the presence of Haryana Janhit Congress of former Haryana chief minister Bhajan Lal. His son Kuldeep Bishnoi represented the party here.

The large crowd braved lack of drinking water, heat and dust to witness the launch of the Third Front.

“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 coalition would stand for the interests of the vast majority of Indians, defend secular values and fight for social justice.

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

CPI’s 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.”

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.”

TDP leader N. Chandrababu Naidu, who spoke in Telugu, asserted: “The Third Front will form the government at the centre after this election.”

AIADMK representative, Rajya Sabha member V. Maithreyan, said: “In the coming elections, UPA will be thrown in the Bay of Bengal. The Third Front will come to power as an alternative to UPA and NDA.”

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