Indian media: Emergence of Third Front

The Indian parliament has started its last session before the general election Image copyright AFP
Image caption The Indian parliament has started its last session before the general election

Media are reporting that the ruling Congress party and the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) could be challenged at the forthcoming general elections by a new political alliance.

Eleven regional parties announced on Wednesday that they were forming a bloc to coordinate positions in the current session of parliament. Together they hold 92 seats in the 545-member lower house.

According to the Deccan Herald, the move signals "the onset of a Third Front" ahead of the national vote due by May. The paper adds that the leaders of the new grouping "hinted at a common programme and joint election campaign, along with state-level seat sharing in Lok Sabha [lower house] polls".

Hindustan Times also thinks that this could be "the final step towards the formation of a Third Front", an alternative to the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).

"This is the beginning of a journey and would soon take definite shape... Indian democracy is not bi-partisan," Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta is quoted as saying by The Tribune.

The CPI along with other "third front" members such as the Samajwadi Party (SP), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) also identified "price rise, corruption, secularism and federalism" as "issues of prime concern", the Deccan Herald points out.

Although it is still unclear whether the parties in the Third Front will contest the national elections together, their alliance was strongly criticised by BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi.

Speaking at an election rally in Calcutta on Wednesday, he called the new formation an "anti-development" group that will make India a "third rate country", reports the DNA newspaper.

"It seems a tough battle ahead for the Third Front," columnist Bharat Bhushan writes in The Asian Age. "But it is a battle worth joining for the regional parties. They gain nothing by not venturing into a political situation which is fluid and full of possibility."

'Parliament heads for washout'

Newspapers are criticising MPs for being slow in approving important bills. Most of the dailies report that the start of the last session of the current parliament on Wednesday was wasted, as it was disrupted by angry exchanges over a controversial bill to approve the new state of Telangana.

The front-page headline in the Hindustan Times - "Day 1 lost in 75 minutes, Parliament heads for washout" - sums up the mood of the press.

"In terms of number of bills passed, this Lok Sabha will fare the worst among those that have completed a full five-year term. Too many important bills have been left to the very end, and their fate hangs in the balance," says an editorial in The Hindu.

The Times of India echoes similar sentiments, saying that "with disruptions marring the first day of the last Parliament session" before the elections, "hopes of substantive legislative business are fast evaporating".

Golden Temple attack

Papers are commenting on UK Foreign Secretary William Hague's statement that Britain had advised India ahead of the 1984 deadly attack on the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The operation was intended to flush out Sikh separatists.

Asserting that there is "no shame in asking for advice and assistance in fighting terrorism", the Hindustan Times says India "need not be apologetic" about seeking Britain's help.

"If anything, it could be argued that the David Cameron government should have been more forthright in saying there were no reasons for it to reconsider helping a fellow democracy in fighting terrorists - and that it would do so again… there is no reason India should not have looked to another government for advice or support," the paper says in an editorial.

However, according to The Pioneer, the "furore" over Mr Hague's statement is "understandable", given that the matter had been kept a "closely guarded secret" for 30 years. The daily also blames the then government for not taking action against Sikh separatists earlier.

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