Patnaik dreams of a third front

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s recent statement advocating a new anti-Congress and anti-BJP third front at the Centre has already triggered an intense debate in the political circles in the state.

While the Congress and the BJP, Patnaik’s two principal rivals in his home state, have described his remarks as a ‘day dream’, the leaders of the chief minister’s ruling regional outfit, the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have welcomed his statement.

They, in fact, have already started projecting him as the leader of the new third front, if and when it takes shape, possibly after the declaration of the results of crucial Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Analysts, however, are of the view that Patnaik’s advocacy for a third front in New Delhi was nothing but yet another attempt on his part to make himself and his party a major player in the national politics. After breaking his more than a decade long association with the BJP on the eve of 2009 Lok Sabha and Assembly elections, Patnaik had joined hands with the Left parties in the hope that after the elections a third front would be formed at the Centre in which he would play a key role with the backing of his Left associates.

Unexpected victory

But the Congress’ unexpected victory in the polls and the Left’s downfall in its stronghold of West Bengal poured cold water on his third front dreams. “Despite its repeated successes in different elections in Odisha, the BJD has remained an almost isolated force at the Centre since its break up with the BJP.

Patnaik realises that it is necessary for a regional party to remain part a group or a front at the national level for his own as well as state’s benefit. Therefore, the fresh advocacy for a new third front”, said an analyst.

It may be important to note here that the central leadership of the BJP a few months back had given enough hints of a reunion with its old Odisha ally and the hints were reciprocated positively by the BJD. However, the state BJP leaders’ vehement opposition to any kind of a fresh tie up with the BJD saw the re-union efforts falling flat.

Now the question is whether it would be possible for regional leaders of other states to come forward to float a new third front at the Centre as proposed by Patnaik. Analysts feel that it may not be that easy because of political compulsions in their own states.

Take for instance the newly elected West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and the Left parties. Observers believe that because of their intense rivalry in Bengal, both cannot be part of the same front. And it will be difficult to create a new anti-Congress and anti-BJP third front without the backing of either Mamata or the Left parties.

Close association

The same holds good with the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party (NCP).

Many BJD leaders are of the view that Patnaik would be able to rope in the Maharashtra strongman into the new third front because of his close association with the union agriculture minister - the NCP and BJD had an alliance in Odisha during the 2009 Assembly elections. However, it will be difficult for Pawar to snap his ties with the Congress because of the ground realities in his home state.

Like Mamata Banerjee, Bihar chief minister and JD(U) heavyweight Nitish Kumar is another regional satrap without whom a third front can not be conceivable. But if one would go by recent statements made by some of Kumar’s close associates from Bihar then the JD(U) seems to be not keen to drop the BJP and snap its ties with the NDA.

For all theses factors, many analysts believe that Naveen Patnaik’s idea of a new anti-Congress and anti-BJP third front may not see the light of the day, at least not in near future.

“Coming together against the Congress led UPA government at the Centre on issues like the NCTC is one thing and floating a new front is another. Patnaik may realise this very soon”, said an analyst.

So far as projecting Patnaik as the leader of the new third front is concerned, it may also turn out to be a futile exercise as, in the event of formation of such a front, many leaders much senior and more experienced in politics than him may emerge to lead the front, observers believe.

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