By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Mayawati, viewed as Indian Barack Obama in the making, being the first member of scheduled caste- known as â€œuntouchableâ€- who may become the next Indian prime minister, is astutely playing her political cards in this direction. Ahead of the dinner meeting (March 15), she hosted for leaders of the new political group Third Front, Mayawati said: â€œThe meeting has nothing to do with the issue of prime ministership. The issue will be decided only after results of the 15th Lok Sabha polls are out.â€ This political move exercised by Mayawati is expected to play a crucial role in keeping Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Third Front â€œunitedâ€ in their electoral campaigning. Outlining this strategy, at a press conference Mayawati said: â€œAll our allies are contesting the elections separately and after the elections, we will unitedly prevent the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) and NDA (National Democratic Alliance) from coming to powerâ€ (March 15).
Mayawati, who has frequently been projected as BSPâ€™s prime ministerial candidate, said that the party founder Kanshi Ram â€˜s â€œheartfelt desireâ€ was to have BSP capture power at the center and in all states. She also released the BSPâ€™s â€œAppealâ€ for Lok Sabha elections, which promises reservation for upper castes, if it captures power at the center. Asserting that her party will make an all-out effort to keep Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA out of power. Mayawati said that the left bloc and several other parties were engaged in this task with determination. â€œWe hope that in this election, our purpose will be achieved,â€ Mayawati said. Suggesting that Sundayâ€™s dinner meeting was also a symbolic display of BSP informally aligning with the Third Front, Mayawati said that the UPA and NDA were worried and concerned about the â€œriseâ€ of this group. â€œThat is why they are coming up with baseless and silly arguments against the Front,â€ she said.
To a question on the number of seats the BSP would contest nationwide, Mayawati replied: â€œThis would be known within a fortnight.â€
Lashing at both UPA and NDA in the â€œAppealâ€ for having failed to come out with â€œproperâ€ economic policies, Mayawati blamed their governments for having hit the common man hard. Mayawati also held both the coalition governments accountable for not securing the borders, which she said had led to terrorist strikes. Besides, she strongly criticized the center for â€œnot giving a single rupeeâ€ to Uttar Pradesh (UP), where she is the chief minister, even though her government had asked for Rs 800 billion package for the stateâ€™s development.
The â€œwrong policies,â€ pursued by governments of NDA and UPA were tailored to â€œsuit the needsâ€ of capitalists, as political parties depended on corporates for funds, Mayawati alleged. She also blamed the Congress and BJP for trying to gradually end reservation by handing over certain government departments and institutions to the private sector. The BSP government in UP had ensured the reservation system, even after a government department was handed over to the private sector, Mayawati said.
Despite Mayawati having repeatedly stated that her party would contest the polls on its â€œown,â€ the dinner meeting is reflective of an informal understanding having been arrived at between the BSP and new political group, Third Front. The dinner meeting also dismissed the speculation circulated earlier that Mayawati would join the group only if she was formally projected as their prime ministerial candidate. All members of Third World and its informal supporters, including Mayawati, have stated that decision on who will be the next prime minister will be taken after Lok Sabha elections are over.
The Third Front was formally launched last week (March 12) in Tumkur, 60 kilometers north of Bangalore, capital of Karnataka. The new political groupâ€™s campaign, beginning with a rally, was attended by millions of people. The key constituents of the Third Front are Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), Communist Party of India (CPI), Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S), Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP). The regional parties include Telegu Desam Party (TDP) and Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) of Andhra Pradesh. While BSP (based primarily in UP) and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazagham (AIADMK) of Tamil Nadu have not formally voiced their alliance with the Third Front, representatives of the two parties were present at the function.
â€œThis 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,â€ Prakash Karat, general secretary CPI-M, told the gathering. â€œWe represent the diversity of India,â€ he said. Asserting that the Third Front represents parties and groups, which would provide new economic policies, Karat said: â€œWe want a federal state. We are against centralization of powers in Delhi. All states should have adequate power.â€
Blaming the Congress and the BJP for having â€œfailed to fulfill aspirations of the peopleâ€ even after 60 years of independence, Karat said: â€œToday we have come together because the country needs a new alternative.â€ Dismissing Congressâ€™ claims of a nine percent growth, Karat drew attention to â€œshameful spectacleâ€ of farmers committing suicide, high unemployment and rising prices. â€œLife is unbearable for ordinary people,â€ Karat said.
â€œWe are launching the Third Front. The cooperation with other secular parties is a matter of satisfaction,â€ former Indian prime minister H.D. Deve Gowda (JD-S), who played a major role in forming the new group, said. He called upon the people to vote for a â€œdemocratic and secularâ€ government in Lok Sabha polls.
A.B. Bardhan (CPI), N. Chandrababu Naidu (TDP) together with representatives of Forward Bloc, RSP, TRS and Bhajan Lalâ€™s Haryana Janahith Party also attended the rally. BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra and AIADMK representative V. Maitreyan were also present.
Though stunned by sudden emergence of the Third Front, the Congress and BJP stated that the new group did not pose a political threat. They did not, however, deny that this groupâ€™s emergence has compelled them to revise their respective electoral strategies. Downplaying the importance of the Third Front, Congress Working Committee (CWC) member V. Narayanasamy said: â€œDefinitely, they are not at all a threat to UPA. UPA allies are intact.â€ â€œThey (the new formation) are only for power. They donâ€™t have any policies and programs. The alliance will not continue for long,â€ Narayanasamy, who is also general secretary of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), said.
â€œThe alliance will vanish in the air as they will go either with the NDA or UPA after the elections,â€ BJP leader Shahnawaz Hussain said. â€œThis is the alliance of the parties with inconsistency. The alliance will not last long and they are not at all a threat to us (NDA),â€ he said. On the role that the new group can play in the polls, he said: â€œThese parties will not have any role in the elections. It will be a direct fight between NDA and UPA.â€
Irrespective of whether Third Front succeeds in keeping Congress and BJP out of power or not, the importance of it having taken shape cannot be ignored. Political wisdom has apparently compelled them not to decide on a prime ministerial candidate ahead of election resultsâ€™ declaration. With there being several aspirants for the post, including Gowda, such an announcement carries the risk of the group falling apart before the polls are held. Democratically thus, irrespective of whether Third World leaders support Mayawati as a prime ministerial nominee or not, they will let this be decided by what Indian voters say!