The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Basu sticks to Cong support

New Delhi, Dec. 15: Jyoti Basu has ruled out a third front for now. “I do not see any possibility of a third front now,” the former Bengal chief minister said today. He is in the capital to attend a CPM politburo meeting.

Basu again made it clear that his party would support a Congress-led coalition if it is able to form a government after next year’s Lok Sabha elections. “If the Congress with its allies can form a government we will support it,” said the veteran Communist leader.

He refused to say if a Sonia Gandhi-led Congress could defeat the BJP. “How can I answer that'” Basu retorted, adding that it was the Congress’ prerogative to elect its leader. This is not the first time that Basu and CPM general secretary Harkishen Singh Surjeet have rooted for Sonia and the Congress, even though a section within their party prefers a more cautious approach.

Basu said the CPM will support the Congress wherever there is a straight fight between it and the BJP. “In other places, we will support our own candidates.”

Other votaries of the third front have washed their hands of the Left-led experiment or are about to do so. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav does not appear interested in the third front; the Nationalist Congress Party and National Democratic Alliance allies like the Samata Party and Telugu Desam Party appear equally unenthusiastic.

Mulayam Singh has kept most parties guessing by keeping his cards close to his chest. Even so, he has made it amply clear that he will not support a Congress-led government at the Centre.

However, the Samajwadi chief is keeping his BJP options open, perhaps with a view to reaching a post-poll arrangement.

With even the Nationalist Congress Party cosying up to the BJP, Laloo Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal is the only party that appears to share the Left’s enthusiasm for a third front.

Anti-BJP forces are at a disadvantage when it comes to pre-poll alliances: the BJP is not expected to have any hiccups in approaching the elections with its NDA partners. But the Opposition is focusing only on seat-sharing arrangements, without sparing any thought for pre-poll fronts.

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