Opinion » Comment

Updated: June 25, 2013 02:55 IST

Beyond an opportunistic coalition

Tridivesh Singh Maini
Comment (16)   ·   print   ·   T  T  
The Hindu

As political realignments take place ahead of the 2014 election, the proposed third front must speak for all States and strengthen the country’s federal character

Both national parties, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), are not in particularly good shape for the upcoming general election. While the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), which has been in power for nine years, will have to counter strong anti-incumbency, the Opposition BJP is currently afflicted with serious infighting, with a small but significant section of the party, headed by L.K. Advani, opposing the projection of Narendra Modi as the party’s face for the 2014 election.

With the Janata Dal United, one of the oldest allies of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), walking out, there is increasing talk of a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative. The formation of a non-Congress, non-BJP dispensation at the centre may seem a bit far-fetched, not just because of numbers, but due to the fact that a lot of regional satraps including Nitish Kumar, Mulayam Singh Yadav and J. Jayalalithaa harbour prime ministerial ambitions. Many of them are mercurial and it is tough to predict their future course of action. It should be stated however, that the proposed Federal front, which is likely to be a grouping of chief ministers from a number of States, and which for the time being includes Nitish Kumar, Mamata Banerjee and Naveen Patnaik, may or may not cobble together a coalition at the centre. But, it can play a crucial role in strengthening India’s federal character.


First, the debate on federalism so far has been very narrow and invariably hyphenated with coalition politics. While the national parties overlook a lot of genuine federal demands, some regional satraps have launched long tirades against the Centre without coming up with constructive solutions to the economic and political problems they have with the Centre. The federal front can be institutionalised. Irrespective of the political outcome of the next general election, it can be a bloc which has greater coordination on issues of economic policy, national security and distribution of resources. Second, for the time being, the discourse has been dominated by economic growth. Industrialised States like Maharashtra and Gujarat are drawing all the attention. Such a front could potentially give a platform to the less developed States which have some genuine demands, and which are neglected. This is important, because no specific model can be foisted at a pan-India level, since each State has varying dynamics.

But there are a few issues which remain unanswered with regard to this proposed front. In case it needs to achieve even partial success, it needs to respond to some of the following questions, which are legitimate and likely to be raised by the sceptics. Is this front just a grouping formed with an eye on the general election, or is this a long-term project. Were some parties to join the UPA and the NDA, would there still continue to be an understanding among these regional parties on issues pertaining to States? The front must brainstorm and where leaders of regional parties outside these respective alliances can also participate. On issues like the setting-up of the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail, a number of political parties, across the political spectrum, did join hands, yet there was not enough cohesion and coordination.

Second, were the federal front to emerge as a grouping of States and regional parties, what would its ambit be and what are the issues on which it will focus? How will it ensure, that the numerically weaker members of such a grouping are given a voice? Perhaps for this reason alone, it should have a road map.

As eastern voice

Third, while the idea of an eastern club — within the federal front — is laudable, will such a front also ensure that States with lesser parliamentary representation, especially from the North-East, have a voice? Hitherto, not only have they been neglected economically and politically, but they are not given the importance they deserve on foreign policy issues, even though they share borders with Myanmar and Bangladesh, two extremely important countries. If the front was not able to do so then it would only be a group of States which are politically relevant.

Fourth, while a political leader will emerge, will there be scope for a coordinator who ensures that there is regular communication between members of the front on important issues?

In conclusion, it is important that the federal front emerges not just merely as an opportunistic coalition, but as a pressure group of States which can help in strengthening India’s federal character. The front should not only seek to capture power but also contribute constructively towards the debate on federalism.

(Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based columnist and policy analyst. E-mail:

More In: Comment | Opinion

In politics, all coalitions are opportunistic. Show me one coatition that was egalitarian.

from:  Kooelgnode S Venkataraman
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 21:50 IST

What we are heading to is a natural progression towards a better democracy. However, we are in a transformation phase. We will go through the hardships and finally evolve stronger.

from:  Kiran
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 19:55 IST

The only binding factor for the third front is political opportunism.
Stay out to strike the best bargain.

from:  Ramachandran
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 17:15 IST

Will the Federal Party give the leadership to apolitical person like Dr
Abdul Kalam? Will he be able to lead this set up? What would be the role
of two national parties Congress and BJP? Will they allow the government
to function under the leadership of Dr Kalam.

from:  Nagarajan
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 16:50 IST

Author's optimistic look that the proposed third front should
strengthen the federal character of the nation is really what one
desires deeply, but no doubt it's an exaggerated view.In India through
years we see only Right wing parties,left parties and the so called
secular centralist parties with some core ideology. Most of the
regional satellites(parties) took their birth not out of ideologies
but only in order to satisfy a fragmented section of the populace with
no broad interests nor even a proper constitution of political agenda.

In such a complex situation expecting these regional fronts with
different agendas and vote-banks coming together under one umbrella
and to stay longer in governance without the support of ideological
fronts is a far distant dream.

Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 15:43 IST

If regional parties come to power at the centre, the country will
definitely face damage at their hands. Either BJP or Congress at the
centre is good for our country. The regional parties arouse anti-
national sentiments very easily and they fish in troubled waters.

from:  J Venkat
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 15:42 IST

When DMK pushed for federalism in the Sixties, they were dubbed anti-national... looks like a North Indian has to initiate anything to be taken seriously in this country ...

from:  Shiva
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 12:40 IST

Whether it is a monolithic or a coalition political entity, the country never had a representative government, representing ,at least,50% of the votes polled. But then, they claim that they got a resounding mandate and pour vows on the people ,gulping and doling out the NATION'S resources to all and the sundry , without any qualms. What is required is a representative government in the true sense.

from:  Chinta Sastry
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 12:01 IST

People should vote for an election candidate's ability instead of the
party. This can only benefit them and their families. Otherwise,many
Nitish kumars will appear. Using votes from another party's
supporters to rule the state or country without shame i.e.The
opposition party at the time of elections becomes supporting party in
the middle of tenure period. Constitutional amendments should be made
for such backstabbing politicians. Also, another front which will be
the third option for citizens will actually benefit the
country.Recently,both Kerala's ruling and opposition parties feared
and trembled when Narendra Modi just entered the state 2 months back
for a religious function. Kerala's ruling party does not have secular
interests, while opposition party were atheists. Cheating by ruling &
opposition parties can be avoided, if only 2 parties are only there in
the political scene.Corruption and criminals will never be punished if
these 2 parties are only given chance to rule.

from:  Ravi
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 11:58 IST

Same old formula and will fail again and again but people will never learn because plain simple thing is Indian people are illiterate cattle class fools. Since ancient times Indian rulers from different states never worked out and people still give importance to them over national role. State rulers were the main reason why India lost to invaders bit by bit. And they are practicing the same formula again.

from:  Harsh V
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 11:13 IST

The author has taken the political parties' perspective and not people's. For the voters (exercising their franchise), it's not just non-Congress and non-BJP, but a non-Corruptive and non-Oppressive coalition that matters. Does it make sense to have economic and political development without social development.

from:  Chinnadurai Gangatharan
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 09:15 IST

Excellent article! The need of the hour is to forge a non-bjp and non-
congress united front based on secularism,democracy,social justice and
federalism! For too long has the Centre's unwanted interference in States
led to lop-sided development and regional disparities.

from:  Umesh Bhagwat
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 07:45 IST

Too many cooks will surely spoil the broth. The federal structure will
be strengthened but at what cost. We have already seen our incumbent PM
passing the buck on his lesser ally NCP for fod price rise. Imagine
Mulayam Singh Yadav as PM blaming Mamata in MEA for failure in foreign
policy and refusing to take action because it was 'mandated'.
Nitish Kumar,in MSW as will may ask for special grant for Koiri-Kurmi
Caste people which is their vote base. NCP and JDU fighting over
migration issue as both will have contradicting regional aspirations.
It is always better, for nation building to have a strong willed popular
leader who is loved all over India as our PM.

from:  Saurav Jha
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 07:12 IST

Such a front cannot work unitedly to govern the country. They need clear policies on the problems facing the country as whole on all issues viz economic, foreign affairs, internal security etc. So far their vision is limited to their own State and also to fulfill their personal ambitions to become a PM. They have all tried to grab power by giving away freebies at the cost of the exchequer. Such a Govt will be disastrous for the country.

from:  S.N.Iyer
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 06:46 IST

This is the appropriate time to get a coalition government at the
centre, excluding the Congress and since India's major population may
like to have a change. In 1977, all parties joined together to defeat
the Congress govt of Indira Gandhi. Now it is
time to have a 3rd front. Wish them all success.

from:  R.S.Prabhu
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 03:35 IST

The article on the prospects of a federal front makes a good read. The author has rightly highlighted issues of representation, especially of the North-East. However, one factor which perhaps could have been taken into consideration for more objective analysis and subsequent opining is how Gujarat under Modi has actually set the precedent for greater federal autonomy which the individual actors in the proposed 3rd front are trying to replicate, or will have to argue for at some stage at least, by organizing themselves as a 'national' force. This would also provide a better understanding of the recent BJP-JD(U)divide, which otherwise has been only shabbily and conveniently analyzed (and justified) through the politics of "secularism".

from:  Luhar Sen
Posted on: Jun 25, 2013 at 02:18 IST
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