Amid heightened speculation about forming a possible Third Front in Indian politics, leaders of eight Opposition parties, minus the Congress, met at Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar’s residence in Delhi on Tuesday. This meeting was attended by some eminent personalities also. The meeting was convened under the aegis of the “Rashra Manch’ of former finance minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader Yashwant Sinha. Sinha, after the meeting, said that he had asked Sharad Pawar to host the gathering of his outfit to “debate current events”
This meeting was followed by a couple meetings between Pawar and poll strategist Prashant Kishor and is being viewed as Third Front manoeuvres ahead of the 2024 polls. However, after the meeting, the NCP tried to make it clear that this gathering has got nothing to do with Third Front talks. “The meeting was called by Yashwant Sinha, not Sharad Pawar, this was not a political meet,” said Majeed Memon, a leader of NCP. When Memon was asked about the absence of Congress leaders in the meeting, he replied, “There are talks that the meeting was for a Third Front without the Congress, which is not the truth. There is no discrimination. We called all like-minded people. We also invited Congress leaders. I called Vivek Tanha, Manish Tiwari, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, Shatrughan Sinha for the meeting. They couldn’t come. It’s not true that we didn’t invite Congress.”
Apart from TMC leader Yashwant Sinha, National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah, Samajwadi Party’s (SP) Ghanshyam Tiwari, Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) president Jayant Chaudhary, Sushil Gupta from the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Binoy Viswam from the Communist Party of India (CPI) and Nilotpal Basu from the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) were also present in the meeting. The non-political figures who attended the meeting included Justice A.P. Shah, Javed Akhtar and K.C. Singh. Talks of a possible attempt to revive the Third Front gained momentum on Monday when Prashant Kishok met Pawar at the latter’s residence. This was his second meeting with Pawar in two weeks.
A report from Kolkata said that TMC leader Mamata Banerjee is not thinking of any new front ahead of the 24 Lok Sabha election. There are doubts in the TMC about how effective that formula will be to defeat the BJP. On the contrary, it would be beneficial to bring the anti-Modi vote together. The TMC has been able to defeat the BJP without forming an alliance with anyone in the state. The party thinks that though there is talk of the second or third front option, it is meaningless. History has shown that against BJP, the strategy of creating a second or third option has not been successful.
Prashant Kishor had said on Monday that he will not be part of the informal meeting that was hosted by Sharad Pawar on Tuesday. “I rule out association with any such Third Front gathering,” the political strategist had said, adding he did not believe that a third or fourth front can challenge the BJP in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. However, sources said that just as he has met Pawar, Kishor will meet other Opposition leaders in the coming days.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Trinamool leader Mamata Banerjee had attempted to form a federal front, but it came to nothing as the Opposition was wiped away in the “Modi wave”. TMC sources said that Kishor had told Pawar that there will be no acceptance of a second or third front. In this situation, Mamata Banerjee feels that the Opposition across the country needs to unite. However, previous polls have shown that the BJP cannot be defeated if the Opposition fights as a single force across the country. So Kishor wants to focus on what Abhishek Banerjee also emphasised on—a strategy of direct fight with the BJP in other states. BJP should have a single fight with the strongest party in the state so that the anti-Modi votes can be united in one place, like in West Bengal. And then the TMC is confident that the Opposition will be able to reach the desired goal in 2024.