The attempt to capture the non-Congress, non-BJP electoral space in the country began in right earnest on Tuesday with leaders of seven regional parties joining the Left in issuing a joint declaration that offers a “democratic, secular, federal and pro-people development agenda’’ to the electorate.
Though leaders of only nine of the 11 parties which formed a separate bloc in Parliament earlier this month were present at the meeting here, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Prakash Karat said the two parties which did not have representation at Tuesday’s meeting – Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and Asom Gana Parishad (AGP) – were on board.
“They were consulted at every stage of drafting the joint declaration,’’ Mr. Karat said, adding that AGP president Prafulla Kumar Mahanta could not come because his mother was critically ill and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of the BJD had a prior commitment.
As for the name of the alternative and its prime ministerial candidate, the refrain of Mr. Karat and Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav was that these would be decided after the elections as has been the case with earlier incarnations of such a grouping which, this time round, is again minus the Telugu Desam Party.
One of the reasons for leaving the decision for post-poll resolution is to keep the doors open for other parties to join. “We do not want to fore-close that possibility by finalising a name and the prime ministerial candidate,’’ said one leader. Indicating the possibility of more parties joining, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav said: “This is just the beginning.’’
On election strategy, Mr. Karat explained that since most of the parties did not have an all-India presence they were free to stitch up alliances as they deemed fit. “We are planning to pool our resources at the national level,’’ he said, explaining that the focus would be on picking up as many seats as possible.’’
While he remained non-committal on this group extending support to the Congress or taking support from it as was the case in 1996, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar said there was no question of the JD(U) returning to the BJP fold under any circumstances. He was replying to a question on whether the JD(U) would reconsider its decision to leave the BJP if the party dropped Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as its prime ministerial candidate.
Describing the Congress and the BJP as two sides of the same coin, the joint declaration resolves to end corruption and ensure accountability in government, establish a secular order that recognises the plurality and diversity in Indian society, provide a people-oriented developmental path which addresses concerns of all marginalised sections, and reverse the centralising mode to create a truly federal system so that all States’ rights are assured including special category status for those which deserve it.
Besides SP, CPI(M), JD(U), BJD and AGP, the other signatories to the declaration are the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Janata Dal (Secular), Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, CPI, All India Forward Bloc and Revolutionary Socialist Party.
Many of these parties had been part of a similar attempt ahead of the 2009 elections to forge a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative but that experiment was later dubbed a failure by the CPI(M) as the call was for forming a government. This time, the party – which has spearheaded this initiative – has, therefore, confined the agenda to providing an electoral alternative.