Why We Wouldn't Want a Third Front

Come general elections, the Great India Election Pot always manages to stir up this motley concoction of regional satraps, a once-in-five-year political phenomena, called The Third Front. In India's largely bi-polar democratic set-up, chances of this Front happen to be rather bleak but this time around, the threat is real. With neither of the two principal parties in good shape (though some might argue that the BJP is in good stead), 2014 might very well throw up a hung Parliament with a Third Front in power.

The 2009 Third Front : A Flop Show
But why is it that the Third Front doesn't augur well for Indians in general? It's primarily because it lacks any single pillar or prop to uphold it, unlike the UPA which has the Congress. The Left parties are a dying organization, limited to a mere 64 Lok Sabha seats of which it can realistically hope to win around 20-25. This ensures that there is no set, pre-determined ideological way of going about things. 

Traditionally, Third Front have also lacked substantial majorities in the Parliament. Without exception, they have been short-lived and rather unstable (just look at 1989 and 1996). Moreover, they lack any credible presence in many states (Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh to name a few). Many of their leaders are famous for their maverick, mercurial and fickle-minded methods. Thus, such a government does not have an all-India appeal or pan-India presence nor does it prove to be a sustainable alternative to the UPA and the NDA. 

Even if, the Third Front does surmount all odds and secure a good majority, it is hardly favorable for us in the present conditions. Each one of the many regional satraps have their own axe to grind, own personal agenda to carry out unlike in one of the mainstream coalitions, UPA or NDA where the principal party traditionally lays out the policies. For example on the foreign policy front, Third Front would be an unmitigated disaster. On one hand we have Mamata Banerjee with her refusal to compromise with Bangladesh over a few issues and then we have Jayalalitha in Tamil Nadu with her long-standing antipathy towards the Sri Lankan Government. The Left has no inhibitions in bearing it's anti-USA credentials. 

On the economic front, a Third Front Government would lead to a plethora of special-package demands where each regional leader would grab a special package for his/her state. All Third Front parties frown upon economic reforms (especially the Left which howls at the mention of FDI) with the sole exception being the NCP. They prefer populism with all it's nitty-gritties - distributing freebies, money and land among the poor. In short, our economy would go on a short-circuit with an over-fed fiscal deficit.

For the first time in many years, a Third Front seems plausible. Yet, for all the reasons mentioned above, they shall be a disastrous Government. There is no doubt that all these regional satraps who comprise this front have done good work in their respective states and consequently have got re-elected. Still, at the Central level, it would perhaps be much better if the UPA or the NDA manage to make it. 

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