K.V. Prasad

Some members vote despite decision to abstain

NEW DELHI: For the second successive time, the Presidential election proved a factor which undid efforts to form a Third Front.

The newly launched United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) of eight parties had announced its decision to abstain from Thursday’s Presidential election. But barely a week after AIADMK leader Jayalalithaa made the decision public on behalf of the UNPA, some MPs and legislators belonging to her party, the Samajwadi Party and the Indian National Lok Dal exercised their franchise in electing the 13th President.

Although there was no whip or direction from the parties against its members taking part in the elections, the fragility of the Third Front stood exposed. The efforts of the Telugu Desam Party and the SP to form a political alternative, bringing together parties opposed to the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, were brought to nought at one stroke.

At the receiving end

In a way, it was the SP’s turn to be at the receiving end. Exactly five years ago, it was the SP chief Mulayam Singh who broke away from the People’s Front, an alliance of the Left, the Janata Dal (Secular) and the SP, over the choice of Presidential nominee.

The SP mooted the candidature of A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and when differences cropped up, Mr. Mulayam Singh and his lieutenant Amar Singh walked out of a Front meeting held at the residence of the then Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet.

In fact, the CPI-M Political Organisational Report, adopted at the 18th Party Congress in 2005, held the SP squarely responsible for bringing the curtains down on the People’s Front.

It noted that initially a Front delegation including the SP met the then President K.R. Narayanan and requested him to contest for a second term.

“The Congress was also inclined to support him. The BJP till then had contemplated putting up P.C. Alexander for the post. However, after seeing the support gathering for Narayanan, the BJP decided to put up Shri Abdul Kalam. The Samajwadi Party declared support to Kalam, going back on its earlier commitment. The stand of the Samajwadi Party on this vital question disrupted the People’s Front,” the report noted.

Now, the way members of the constituents broke ranks with the UNPA and took part in the Presidential election clearly indicated a lack of collective commitment. There were reports here that the AIADMK was initially keen on taking part in the elections. But the TDP and the SP were reluctant.

Predicament

Interestingly, the TDP, which is building bridges with the Left parties after being in BJP company, was insistent that it could not be seen as backing either Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, an Independent supported by the BJP, or Pratibha Patil of the Congress. The SP too faced a similar predicament.

The TDP leadership kept its flock together and stuck to the decision to abstain. So did the SP, whose parliamentarians and legislators by and large adhered to the party’s wish.