Third Front Threat in Maharashtra

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With elections round the corner, the Congress seems to be getting more grief from its friends than enemies. The party is in a flurry over a move, reportedly by ally Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, to prop up third-party candidates which will eat into Congress votes.

The alarm bells started ringing when Ramdas Athavale, head of a Republican Party of India faction, failed to get a commitment from the Congress on seat-sharing and announced the birth of the Republican Left Democratic Front (RLDF) that includes 15 other regional parties. If the RDLF fields candidates in all the 288 Assembly constituencies, it will lead to splintering of votes and the Congress might find it tough to even retain power.

On the advice of the party’s spin doctors, middlemen are negotiating with Athavale. In the past, he has shown to be open to handouts. Senior Congress leaders have been huddled in groups, discussing the impact of this on their vote banks. And they’ve concluded that Pawar is behind the move. To counter this, Congressmen have reverted to their go it-alone threat in the Assembly polls. Congress leaders feel the party may win 100 seats if it contests all 288 seats. But they will still need the NCP’s help to form the government.