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Old friends come closer as plans afoot to forge a Third Front

October 22, 2013 14:59 IST

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury was in Chennai on Saturday and AIADMK sources said Tamil Nadu CM J Jayalalithaa could be sounded as convenor for the proposed Third Front. Aditi Phadnis reports

Strenuous efforts to forge a Third Front of non-Bharatiya Janata Party, non-Congress political parties were on and an announcement could be made in weeks, rather than months, possibly even as early as November, political sources close to the negotiations said.

Communist Party of India-Marxist leader and Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury was in Chennai on Saturday and All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam sources said party chief and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa could be sounded as convenor.

BJP leader Narendra Modi had also tried to meet Jayalalithaa when he was in Chennai, but had failed. And, she did little to prevent a demonstration against Modi's visit by the Students' Federation of India, the students' wing of the CPI-M. AIADMK and the Left parties are in alliance in her state.

The test of this new political formation will be the degree of unanimity at a convention against communalism on October 30. Though serious differences continue on fundamental issues -- a common stand on convicted MPs, for instance -- preventing agreement on a common minimum programme, discussions are on to have a broad front committed to anti-communalism that will prevent the BJP getting fresh allies.

The Samajwadi Party is holding talks with the Trinamool Congress, but the latter is likely to keep its own counsel, given that the front is a largely Left-driven initiative. Odisha's ruling Biju Janata Dal and the Andhra Pradesh-based YSR Congress have already indicated they would be amenable to supporting any formation that is "not communal".

Recognising that seat sharing in the 2014 general elections might be a problem -- though the AIADMK is ready to give the CPI and CPI-M one seat each as a 'friendly gesture', while contesting the rest of the 38 seats in Tamil Nadu on its own -- leaders say that seat sharing is a distant goal.

Instead, the endeavour will be to prevent parties from making any commitment to the BJP and evolving a common minimum programme that could become a testament for a durable relationship after 2014.

Many of the protagonists of the Third Front were together between 1996 and 1998. They expect a hung Parliament next year, following which they see an opportunity to form the next government with outside support from the Congress.

While the Left sustained the Congress party-led United Progressive Alliance government in its first tenure, before withdrawing support over differences over the Indo-US civil nuclear deal, the Samajwadi Party is still part of UPA-II: Its letter of support to the Congress-led UPA is still with the President of India.

The parties in the putative Third Front are confident the Congress would extend support to their effort to form the next government to keep BJP out of power.

AIADMK sources say the Janata Dal United is likely to join forces with the Congress and is less enthusiastic about the Third Front than the others. But smaller parties like the Telangana Rashtra Samiti and the Rashtriya Lok Dal are looking at a third front to boost their relevance in national politics. Though the Nationalist Congress Party is part of the ruling Congress-led alliance in Maharashtra, it does not rule out the possibility of its exit, depending on the result of the assembly elections in the state.