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Why alternative politics has become such a laughable cliché

Sankarshan Thakur

ANOTHER ACRONYM has been handed us by our politicians — UNPA, the United National Progressive Alliance. To what end? It is fair to remain lost on that one because so many such acronyms have been conjured only to become part of that indecipherable script called “Third Front” politics.

For all its grand postulations, VP Singh’s National Front government was perhaps the original sinner — it was an alchemy of ideological inconsistencies and fell prey to them in the end
Lost on an issue? Launch a front. That seems to have become the leitmotif of a certain breed of parties. Examine the latest avatar — the UNPA. The Samajwadi Party, the Telugu Desam, the AIADMK, the MDMK, the Asom Gana Parishad, the Haryana Lok Dal, et al, on the same platform. Why? Because they have resolved not to back presidential nominees of either the UPA or the NDA. That constitutes bad politics for them. This isn’t the first time this common ground has been defined and inhabited. The Third Front or its amoeboid variables have taken form many a time in the name of providing an “anti-Congress, anticommunal” alternative. There was a time the Left used to be part of it. There is nothing to ensure it wouldn’t jump on that wagon again but at least for the moment it appears to have realised the limitations and futility of such a formation. The current constituents of the UNPA clearly have not, or refuse to. Never mind that they haven’t a chance in hell of getting their presidential nominee — incumbent APJ Abdul Kalam — a second term in Rashtrapati Bhavan. All that the initiative might achieve in the end is to embarrass Kalam. But this isn’t about any of that. This is about the sordid opportunisms of “Third Front” politics from the very start. For all its grand postulations, VP Singh’s National Front government was perhaps the original sinner — it was an alchemy of ideological inconsistencies and, rightly, fell prey to them in the end. There has been a steady succession of pretenders to so-called alternative politics, all of them opportunistic, all of them riven with contradictions.

Look at the current lineup that justifies itself in the name of providing a platform that is at once anti-Congress and anti-BJP. Half the constituents of the UNPA were till recently happily consorting with the BJP — the Telugu Desam, the AIADMK and the MDMK, the Asom Gana Parishad, Om Prakash Chautala and Babulal Marandi. While the NDA was in power, none of the parties thought it a problem to ally themselves with the BJP and get a bite of the pie. The moment the NDA was out, most of them sprung secular fur. To be fair, other than the Left and Mulayam Singh’s SP, none of the constituents of so-called “Third Front” formations have had a consistent record on secular politics; when the opportunity came, they allied with the BJP and worse. So much for their protestations about an alternative, so much for yet another front.

Jun 30 , 2007

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