New Delhi: Eleven parties today decided to contest the Lok Sabha elections together to provide an alternative to the Congress-led UPA and the BJP-led NDA - yet another shot at a Third Front. Among those who met in Delhi were the Left, Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party.
"This is not the Third Front, it is the First Front,"said JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav. (Highlights of the press conference)
Mulayam Singh Yadav enthusiastically declared, "We are 11 parties now. We might be 15 soon... together we will do it." (Who said what) While on numbers, though, only nine parties attended the meeting. Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal or the BJD and the Asom Gana Parishad skipped; CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said pressing matters had kept them away.
In Bhubaneswar, however, Mr Patnaik said, "As I said before, I think at the moment it is still early days."
The AGP, sources said, is split down the middle; one section reportedly wants the party to forge an alliance with Narendra Modi's BJP.
At today's meeting, the participants chose not to discuss who would be prime minister if the conglomerate comes to power. Third Front experiments have traditionally seen regional parties in a tussle over the top post and there are many leaders in the current configuration who reportedly fancy their chances.
The new front talked alternative policy and secular politics, but when asked whether they would do business with the Congress to keep the BJP from power, chose to remain silent. "Let's first concentrate on winning the elections. Then these are issues that we can discuss later... We are not in a position to comment now," Mr Karat said.
Third Front governments in the past have either been backed by the BJP (VP Singh in 1989) or the Congress (HD Deve Gowda in 1996, IK Gujral in 1997). They have not been the steadiest of partnerships.