Nitish, Left leaders meet at Deve Gowda’s house

Leaders of five of the 11-member non-Congress, non-BJP alternative that is being forged met here on Monday and discussed the broad contours of a joint declaration of intent after the Parliament session, which is scheduled to end on February 21.

The initiative at the behest of the Left parties is aimed at offering an alternative vision on economic policies and a pro-active strategy to contain the growing communal tide in the political discourse as the general election approaches.

This morning’s meeting at the former Prime Minister and Janata Dal (Secular) leader, H.D. Deve Gowda’s residence was attended by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat, CPI veteran leader A.B. Bardhan and Debabrata Biswas of the All India Forward Bloc.

Conscious of the divergent constituencies of the parties in the grouping as well as the not-so-happy past experience of non-Congress, non-BJP electoral formations, the leaders have deliberately chosen to keep out third front nomenclature.

In contrast to the Left parties, some of the regional parties whose leaders have prime ministerial ambitions are keen on turning the group into a formal front. Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh has repeatedly been claiming that the next government would be formed by the third front.

Leaders contacted by The Hindu ruled out the possibility of a common minimum programme. Instead, what is being planned is a broad policy outline of the kind of alternative they would provide. Some joint rallies could also be organised to send across the message that a viable non-Congress, non-BJP alternative is available.

On the question of whether there would be any nation-wide pre-poll alliance, the refrain was that State-specific seat sharing arrangements were being worked out. But this may not be the case in Uttar Pradesh, where the SP has said no seats would be left for allies. Likewise in Jharkhand, the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha is apparently reluctant to concede seats.

Even as Mr. Mulayam Singh has been projecting himself as a potential primer ministerial candidate, other leaders said the issue of premiership is not on the agenda. One leader quipped: “Why count the chickens before they have hatched?”

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