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Mamata Banerjee’s federal force wins no friends

Silence of Samajwadi Party among other major regional groups suggests bleak prospects

Gulf News

New Delhi: The federal front proposed by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee which took off with three provincial ruling parties including her own Trinamool Congress joining hands may prove to be a non-starter mainly due to a lack of trust in her.

Banerjee received positive responses from her counterparts in Bihar and Odisha but other parties, which can make the front a viable alternative at the federal level, have so far failed to show enthusiasm for her initiative.

Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is yet to respond to Banerjee’s invitation to join hands with her.

Yadav had been at the forefront in a bid to revive the Third Front, which ruled the country between 1996 and 1998. At the time, 13 parties came together to form the government after the election of a hung parliament. The government barely survived for two years. Yadav has since been trying to revive the Third Front without much success.

The trio of Banerjee, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik are expected to meet next month to formally discuss the proposed front. Political observers, however, feel that it may at the most become a pressure group rather than provide an alternative to the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance.

Banerjee is known for her political tantrums and impatience when she raises political demands. She has been part of both the NDA and UPA before and it is doubtful that many parties would like to align with her.

Moreover, there are inherent contradictions in the proposed coalition. Any such front would not be viable without the active participation of a large number of political parties. If the Left Front cannot imagine joining hands with Banerjee, Uttar Pradesh rivals Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party cannot be seen on the same side of the fence. The same applies for the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the two powerful forces of Tamil Nadu politics.

Interestingly, despite allies deserting them at crucial junctures, both the Congress party and the BJP insist that there is no place for a third front considering Indian politics has, over the years, moved towards a bipolar system.

“I don’t think there will be a third front before next general elections. But there is scope of regional parties joining hands after elections to from the next government at the centre [federal level],” former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, who heads the Indian National Lok Dal party, said.