Sunday, March 15, 2009

Why this Third Front will not work


If any country needs a new political formulation, it is India. People have lost faith in the existing formulations to the extent that there is a loss of faith in the electoral system itself. For a democracy to be meaningful, it must offer voters a meaningful choice. As the candidacy of Barack Obama did in the US. Between a moribund monarchical party and an anti-modern communal outfit, the Indian voter has no meaningful choice.

Alas, the newly announced Third Front does not offer a choice either. The main reason is that it is an unnatural combination, put together by incompatible leaders, with contrarian objectives, pursued through self-serving methodologies.

Perhaps it is symbolic that the sutradhar of the jamboree was H.D.Deve Gowda, frustrated ever since he lost his accidental prime ministership in 1997. He is described as the sharpest Chanakya of our time. But many of his recent decisions were no compliment to Chanakya. One example will suffice. Although his party is called “secular”, his manoeuvres led directly to the BJP assuming power for the first time in his home state. He is all set to further strengthen the BJP by splitting the “secular” votes he is pledged to support.

Who are the leaders Deve Gowda claims to be with the Third Front? Prakash Karat, A. B. Bardan, Chandrababu Naidu, Jayalalitha, Mayawati and groupings like the Forward Bloc, the Republican Party and the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti. Can a reasonable citizen expect any two of these leaders to agree on anything? Even Karat and Bardan are overseeing a self-destructive cockfight among their comrades over seat sharing.

What is bringing these disparate leaders together is of course the thirst for power. Barring the communists, every leader is keen to become prime minister. The two ladies will settle for nothing less. In other words, the Third Front is a platform for unyielding personal ambitions to engage in mortal combat.

We have seen this before. After the police raj of the Emergency, how excited were the people when Jayaprakash Narayan ushered into being a Janata Party Government. It embodied the hopes of a whole nation. It was as good as a second dawn of independence.

In no time all hopes were shattered and the Janata Cabinet became a circus tent. Not a single national problem was addressed while the ministries became cesspools of corruption, inefficiency and disorder. Morarji Desai insisted that only he was qualified to be Prime Minister. Charan Singh unseated him but could not face Parliament because he had no majority. He became caretaker Prime Minister, a brief interlude that he spent arresting Indira Gandhi and Sanjay Gandhi making them martyrs and himself a fool. These petty men with petty minds collapsed into their own filth to become miserable footnotes in history.

We face no better prospects this time, because petty ambitions still reign supreme. In a situation where no party commands the trust of the people, it is possible that the game of numbers may give the Third Force players some space. Post-election arithmetic may even give them, if we want to be generous, a shot at power. For example, they can join with Sharad Pawar, who is itching to serve the country as Prime Minister.

But forming a government will be the easy part. Staying in office for even a few months will be impossible, unless they agree to have a government of ten prime ministers. Our politicians are in politics not to serve India, but to make India serve them.