Union minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Sunday said in Hyderabad that he was not in favour of his party extending support to the third front from outside, rather he wanted the party to be a part of the government.
Asked if the Congress would support the third front if both United Progressive Alliance and National Democratic Alliance failed to win a majority, Ramesh initially dismissed the question as hypothetical, but later said: "I think the Congress party's policy has always been that we will support any political combination that demonstrates commitment to secular values, which means basically the parties not wedded to BJP.
"That's what we did in 1996 (extending outside support to the United Front government). But as of now, I can't say....depends on the relative numbers," he said in an interview to PTI.
"The ideal situation should be no outside support," Ramesh said. "I believe if you support a government, you must support from within. These are my personal views....to ensure political stability, any alliance must have all its partners in governance," he said.
In UPA-I, Ramesh said, Communist Party of India-Marxist and CPI which extended outside support to the Government "made the life miserable for us".
Quoting senior CPM leader Sitaram Yechury's reported statement at the time that the left parties "bark but don't bite", Ramesh said, "But sometimes barking is also bad...constantly being barked at. CPM and CPI didn't bite but they bit at the end...they withdrew support on the nuclear deal."
Earlier, Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan had said last week that Congress could form the next government by joining hands with the third front, while Union Minister Salman Khurshid had said it could consider extending support to the third front or taking its help to form the government.
Ramesh admitted that Congress was fighting the elections with its back to the wall, but dismissed the opinion polls projecting only around 100 seats for it.
"That's a gross underestimation," he said, adding that his party's assessment was that it would pick up more seats in all states than the projections of the opinion polls. "The same situation happened in 2004, the same situation prevailed in 2009. Both in 2004 and in 2009, the NDA was given clear, convincing majority which didn't materialise."
Post-results, he said, it would be UPA-3 or NDA-2 or UF-2. "My own belief is that Congress will play a significant role in the formation of the next government," he said, but added that he did not see Congress repeating its 2009 performance; nor did he see an electoral debacle for it.
"...it's been written off by the press, it's written off by opinion polls. But let me tell you, it's not over, till it's over, he said, adding that "we are fighting to be in power, we are not fighting to be an opposition party."