Chandigarh: Riding on what they term as a “palpable anti-BJP mood” over the farmers’ issue, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) is trying to facilitate the creation of a national “third front”, comprising anti-BJP and anti-Congress parties.
Five-time Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala, the INLD patriarch, intends to start work on the front during a rally to be held in Jind on 25 September.
The rally is to mark the birth anniversary of his father, Devi Lal, a stalwart Jat farmer leader from Haryana who was India’s deputy prime minister in the late 1980s.
Leaders such as the JD(S)’s Deve Gowda, SP’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, NC’s Farooq Abdullah and Akali Dal’s Parkash Singh Badal are expected to attend the rally. Among those invited are West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, RLD’s Jayant Chaudhary and NCP’s Sharad Pawar.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, whom Chautala met in Delhi earlier this month, has said that he will not be able to attend the event.
Chautala, who was serving a 10-year sentence following his conviction in a recruitment scam was finally released from jail in July this year. He has met many of the leaders he has invited, besides touring the state.
His son Abhay Chautala, who heads the INLD, told ThePrint Tuesday that the idea of a third front will be mooted on the day of the rally and if everyone is in agreement, then a subsequent meeting will be planned.
“A certain situation is emerging in the country, especially in wake of the farmers’ agitation that has been going on for over nine months,” he said. “This is the time for the anti-BJP parties to come together and take them on. Given the condition of the Congress, they cannot do it.”
Abhay added that his party has been opposing the farm laws since the day they were passed.
“More than 70 per cent of the people in India are farmers. And no party or politician or right thinking person can ignore their interests,” he added.
“We are all opposed to the three central farm laws and if everyone agrees, the first common programme to be announced by the third front will be to revoke the farm laws and bring in legislation on MSP.”
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INLD looking to reclaim lost ground: Experts
While some experts maintain that the rally may not lead to anything much politically, others point out that it may be an effort by the INLD to gain lost ground.
“Devi Lal was a towering figure in national politics and every year when his birth anniversary is celebrated, a rally is held and most of these leaders come together on one stage,” said senior journalist and Haryana expert Sanjeev Sharma.
“Almost every year, there is talk of a third front on this stage but nothing concrete has come out of it,” he added. “This time there is an added gloss to the event because of the farmers’ agitation, especially after the maha panchayats at Muzaffarnagar and Karnal.”
Prof. Ramesh Kumar of the Department of Political Science, Central University, Haryana, believes the rally and posturing is an attempt by the INLD to reclaim the legacy of Devi Lal, which it has lost to its breakaway faction, the Jannayak Janta Party, which is currently sharing power with the BJP in the state.
“In my opinion, a third front is too much to ask for especially when the position of the INLD within the state itself is rather poor. The rally, however, seems to be a serious bid by the INLD to consolidate its position for the future,” Prof Ramesh said.
“The farmers are already very upset with the JJP for standing by the BJP. And this will damage them in a big way politically in the next elections. The INLD feels this is the right time to make a comeback into Haryana’s Jat-centric politics.”
The INLD is without a single MLA in the state assembly. Abhay Chautala was the party’s lone legislator but he had resigned from his seat of Ellenabad over the farmer’s issue in January.
The JJP, meanwhile, has pooh-poohed the rally and the plans for a third front.
“We are in the first front. Why would we join a third front,” JJP leader and deputy chief minister Dushyant Chautala had remarked in a recent press conference.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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