India

Indian media assess Third Front's impact on elections

Leaders of the Third Front say they are confident of a good show in the general elections Image copyright AFP
Image caption Leaders of the Third Front say they are confident of a good show in the general elections

Newspapers are discussing the impact of a new political alliance on the upcoming general elections.

Leaders of 11 regional parties gathered in Delhi on Tuesday to announce the formation of the Third Front that will contest against the ruling Congress and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Regional leaders like former defence minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Left parties are part of the alliance.

Papers feel the alliance may lack a common leader and goal to strike a chord with the voters, but it cannot be ignored.

"Efforts to cobble together a Third Front can be scorned at, but hardly be wished away. Most pre-poll surveys indicate that regional parties and smaller groups are likely to win approximately 40% seats in the next elections," says Hindustan Times.

Commentators say the alliance will face its real test after the results are announced.

"Even as the Third Front manages to grab many eyeballs, the sustainability of this bandwagon of regional parties and Left Front remains to be seen...only time will tell if they will stick together post poll to provide stability at the centre," says the CNN-IBN website.

The Times of India says the new alliance "was immediately hit by controversy as two of its 11 constituents - Biju Janata Dal and Asom Gana Parishad - were conspicuously absent" during the announcement.

Leaders of the Third Front, however, say they are confident of a good show in the polls.

"It is time for change and to throw out the Congress… the BJP and the communal forces must be defeated and prevented from coming to power," Prakash Karat, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), said.

Wooing Muslims

Staying with politics, BJP president Rajnath Singh has said that his party is ready to apologise to the Muslims of the country for any mistakes that it may have committed in the past, The Indian Express reports.

Mr Singh made the remark at an event in Delhi held to encourage Muslim voters to support his Hindu nationalist party in the elections.

BJP's opponents often criticise the party for its alleged role in the demolition of a mosque in northern India in 1992. The BJP denies these allegations.

The party's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, is blamed for not doing enough as a chief minister to stop the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in the western state of Gujarat. Mr Modi has always denied any wrongdoing.

Elsewhere, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitely's website was hacked on Sunday by international hackers, The Times of India reports.

The Delhi Police say Mr Jaitley's website was inaccessible for a few hours and its home page was hacked and modified, the paper adds.

The police suspect the hackers may be based in Pakistan.

"Senior officers said that preliminary investigations suggest that the hackers might have used a server based in Pakistan that may have been routed through Texas in US to hack into the system," the paper reports.

Diplomatic tightrope

In international news, India will be walking a diplomatic tightrope this week as the visits of Saudi Arabian crown prince Salman bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif overlap, The New Indian Express reports.

"While Mr al-Saud, 78, is scheduled to arrive here on Wednesday noon and return on Friday, Zarif is expected to fly down to the country on Thursday," the paper says.

Iran, a Shia nation, and Saudi Arabia, a Sunni country, are often at loggerheads over greater influence in the Middle East.

And finally, a school principal in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh asked a Muslim student to shave his beard before taking annual exams, Deccan Herald reports.

The family of the boy, Abdul Wasid, has complained to the police alleging the principal had hurt their religious sentiment, the paper adds.

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