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A Brief History of Amoeba-like Experiments with the Third Front

The call for an anti-Indira Gandhi mobilisation in 1975 was given by veteran socialist Jayprakash Narain or JP. During Emergency, opposition leaders who were put behind bars gave concrete shape to the Janata Party.

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Updated:March 28, 2018, 12:19 PM IST
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A Brief History of Amoeba-like Experiments with the Third Front
Regional parties like TDP in Andhra led by NT Rama Rao, AGP in Assam led by Prafulla Mohanta and DMK from Tamil Nadu were key components of this coalition build around Janata Dal led by VP Singh, Devi Lal and Chandrashekhar.
New Delhi: The Janata Party was the launch pad of the alternative politics in India after three decades of Congress domination. In the four decades of amoeba-like existence, the party which formed the first non-Congress government at the Centre finally merged with the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. Subramaniam Swamy, the last president of the party, formally joined the BJP and was later nominated to the Rajya Sabha.

The call for an anti-Indira Gandhi mobilisation in 1975 was given by veteran socialist Jayprakash Narain or JP. During Emergency, opposition leaders who were put behind bars gave concrete shape to the Janata Party. Even RSS affiliated Jan Sangh joined in. Internecine war in Morarji Desai-led government coupled with dual leadership issues within the party led to a sudden implosion. In three years of losing elections, Indira Gandhi was back in power again in 1980.

The second Janata experiment was again crystallised by a former Congressman turned rebel—VP Singh. Defence Minister in Rajiv Gandhi government, Singh resigned over allegations of corruption in defence deals to mobilise splinter Janata groups in the north and struck a pre-poll pact with the BJP and the Left. Regional parties like TDP in Andhra led by NT Rama Rao, AGP in Assam led by Prafulla Mohanta and DMK from Tamil Nadu were key components of this coalition build around Janata Dal led by VP Singh, Devi Lal and Chandrashekhar.

Again the aspirational power tussle brought the government down in 11 months. Chandrashekar defected from Janata Dal with his loyalists to take oath as PM with outside support from the Congress. National Front experiment at the Centre crumbled under its own contradictions in less than two years.

Congress-led by Narsimha Rao rode to power for full five years in the next elections in 1991.

The third Third Front Experiment was set into motion in 1996. The BJP riding the Ram Temple Movement had emerged as the main challenger to the Congress by then.

After 13 days in power when Atal Bihari Vajpayee failed to muster numbers regional parties took one more attempt at the Third Front alternative at the Centre.

West Bengal Jyoti Basu was offered Prime Ministers post. His party committed the ‘historic blunder’ and rejected the offer after debate and dissection.

So Karnataka CM and Janata Dal leader H D Deve Gowda was chosen to lead the front. Congress supported the government from outside.

But very soon, there was a rebellion against Narasimha Rao in the Congress. Rao had to hand over reins of power to his trusted party treasurer Sitaram Kesari.

An impatient Kesari withdrew support from the government. Deve Gowda was replaced by Inder Kumar Gujral.

Since then, all governments at the Centre have either been led by BJP or the Congress.

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| Edited by: Ahona Sengupta
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