11 parties cobble up ‘alternative’ to defeat Cong, BJP

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NCP welcomes front; AGP, BJD skip meet to keep options open

Eleven political parties, led by the Left, on Tuesday came together to provide an alternative to the Congress and the BJP, but two constituent parties — Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) — skipped the meet, prompting political observers to read it as a message that they would likely keep their options open.

As many as 17 parties took part in a Left-sponsored convention against communalism in New Delhi last November, that number has shrunken to 11 now.

The constituent parties — including JD(U), Left, Samajwadi Party and AIADMK, among others — brainstormed over poll strategies through the day and resolved to “throw the Congress out of power” and defeat the BJP to ensure that “communal forces” do not come power at the Centre.

But they left the ticklish issue of prime ministerial candidate open. Flanked by JD(U) leader and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda and leaders of his other allies, CPI(M) leader Prakash Karat said the issue would be discussed only after the elections.

Never ever in the past have we fought over this issue. We have had Morarji Desai, V P Singh, H D Deve Gowda and I K Gujral. All these names were decided unanimously after the elections,” he said. Both SP chief Yadav and AIADMK chief Jayalalitha do not hide their prime ministerial ambitions, and even Nitish Kumar can be a claimant to the top post.

Karat said BJP’s policies are similar to those of Congress. “Their record of corruption at the Centre earlier and in states now is as bad or worse than the Congress. On top of it, it poses a challenge to the very secular edifice of our state and society. It is a twin of the Congress and the other side of the same coin,” he quipped.

The front vowed not to seek support of the Congress or the BJP to form government if they fail to get past the 272 magic figure in the Lok Sabha. “No question of taking support or supporting these parties after the elections,” said Nitish Kumar.

Two front partners, AGP and BJD, were conspicuous by their absence. Karat sought to downplay their absence, saying the chiefs of both the parties — Prafulla Kumar Mahanta and Naveen Patnaik — expressed support to the initiative.

Patnaik told reporters in Bhubneswar that it was early days for the alliance. But SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav claimed the number of parties would soon swell to 15. The Nationalist Congress Party, which has already struck seat adjustments with the Congress, welcomed the move, saying it was a ‘positive development’.

On the front’s election strategy, Karat hinted that it would largely be a scattered effort in the elections. “Every party has strength in its own areas and state. We will pool our resources at the all-India level after the elections,” he said. He clarified that the parties might not go for seat adjustments in all states.

Apart from Deve Gowda of JD-S and SP’s Yadav, the meeting was attended by veteran CPI leader A B Bardhan, M Thambidurai of AIADMK, T G Chandrachoodan of RSP, Debabrata Biswas of Forward Bloc, Sitaram Yechury of CPM, KC Tyagi of JD-U, S Sudhakara Reddy of CPI and a leader of Jharkhand Vikas Morcha.


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