UNPA is year-old - does it have a future?

June 5th, 2008 - 10:59 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Bahujan Samaj Party
By Kavita Bajeli-Datt
New Delhi, June 5 (IANS) It’s been a year since the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) was born but the disparate grouping is yet to emerge as a viable “Third Front” in India’s confused political landscape. And the road ahead for the multi-party coalition seems tough.

While its chairman and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party is warming up to long-time foe Congress, the AIADMK of former Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalitha has already walked away.

The alliance seemingly started on a promising note, organising a number of political rallies jointly with the Left parties against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) agricultural policies.

But once the central government announced a waiver of farmers’ loans, the UNPA lost its favourite campaign plank.

Not long afterwards, the AIADMK began to show signs that it would not mind the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as a friend, a posture that irked the Left and did not please everyone else in the UNPA.

And then, as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati rode to power in Uttar Pradesh, Mulayam Singh and the Congress started making friendly noises.

In the process, the UNPA’s stated goal of being “equidistant” between the Congress and the BJP got eroded - with disastrous result.

“One doesn’t know what is UNPA. This is a loose alliance of various regional parties,” political analyst G.V.L. Narasimha Rao told IANS. “They have come together for the sake of forming a strong group on the national scene.”

Rao said maintaining equal distance from the Congress and the BJP would make its survival difficult.

“They are more of a loose and very unstable alliance. It is unlikely that they will last till the upcoming general elections,” he said.

Besides the Samajwadi Party, the UNPA includes the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), the Asom Gana Parishad and the Jharkand Vikas Morcha.

“If they think that they have a good future, then they are living in a fool’s paradise. They are not very strong to hold the alliance together,” Rao said.

UNPA partners would love to prove him wrong.

“The UNPA has a bright future,” insisted Samajwadi Party MP Shailendra Kumar. “TDP has done well in the bye-elections to the assembly and Lok Sabha from Andhra Pradesh. The Third Front is very strong. No one will be able to form any government in (New) Delhi without UNPA support.

“We are too important to be ignored. Our alliance has become very strong and many other parties are joining us,” added Kumar, the Lok Sabha member from Chail in Uttar Pradesh.

Agreed D. Raja of the Communist Party of India (CPI), which is not a member of the UNPA but which, along with the larger Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), would like to do business with the UNPA.

“Don’t write off the alliance. In a democratic multi-party system, the third front has a role to play,” Raja said. “They have to assert themselves and make space for themselves.

“We cooperated with them on farmers’ issue, inflation and price rise. We held joint campaigns and we would welcome them if they want to join us on people-related issue.”

One assessment is that the Samajwadi Party and TDP, the two largest UNPA constituents, will wait for the 2009 Lok Sabha verdict to see if the seats they win will be enough to play the role of a kingmaker.

Another political analyst, N. Bhaskar Rao, said the country’s political scenario would become clearer only after key assembly elections take place this year.

“Things will be clearer by the end of the year when Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh go for elections. We have to see what role this alliance will be able to play (in these elections).”

“So far UNPA has not yet emerged as a force. But we should wait for now. We will know for certain after the elections in the four states.”

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