Gujarat polls: Why third front is a non starter in the state

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By: Anand Singh
Updated: 02 December, 2022 11:58 pm IST

Aam Aadmi Party’s entry into the fray in Gujarat has opened up discussion about the feasibility of a third front in the state. Historically, the possibility of a third front forming a formidable power block in Gujarat has been bleak. But with first phase of voting in Gujarat over for 89 seats and remaining 93 to go for polls on December 4, the low voter turnout has put focus on the third front which had failed in the state in last few decades where leaders like former Chief Minister  Keshubhai Patel and Shankarsinh Vaghela too floated their own party.

The electoral contest in Gujarat had remained bipolar between the Congress and the ruling BJP, which has been in power in the state for the last 27 years and is seeking its seventh consecutive term.

However, the entry of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in the assembly polls have made the elections more interesting this time, with the Congress and the BJP denying the effect of the third party.

Speaking to The New Indian, Rivaba Jadeja, wife of Indian cricketer Ravindra Jadeja, who is contesting as BJP candidate from Jamnagar North assembly seat also denied the effect of the third party in the poll fray in Gujarat.

“The people of Gujarat have never accepted triangular politics in the state. And they will never accept such tripolar elections in Gujarat. And people of Gujarat will never accept triangular politics in the state and we are confident that we will get over 150 seats in the state,” she said.

Even former Gujarat Congress chief and party candidate from Porbandar assembly seat Arjun Modhwadia said that a number of leaders had earlier tried to create a third front in the state but they had failed.

In an interview with The New Indian, Modhwadia, who is a two time former MLA from Porbandar said, “As far as the BJP and AAP is concerned, before electing a single MLA in Gujarat they are announcing their CM candidate. And AAP announcing the Chief Ministerial candidate is a joke. They could not get a single seat in the Gujarat assembly. The party is completely irrelevant and they are Team B of the BJP.”

Modhwadia, who was also the LOP in Gujarat assembly polls said, “Not only Keshubhai Patel or Vaghela, previously Indulal Yagnik, who was contemporary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel came up, but he was not successful.

Then towering leaders like (former CM) Chimanbhai Patel, Vaghela and Keshubhai Patel too tried to create space for third party but they failed to get votes and were not recognised as third front.”

“And AAP doesn’t even belong to Gujarat. Not a single leader of their party are their own. They are importing it (leaders) from Congress or BJP. And managing campaign from Delhi and they (AAP) are providing resources from Delhi and only to help the BJP,” the Congress leader added.

Yagnik was founder president of the Mahagujarat Janata Parishad and was elected to the Lok Sabha in 1957 from the Ahmedabad constituency, which was then part of Bombay state.

However, with the decline of the MJP and the Nutan Mahagujarat Janata Parishad in the ’60s saw the rise of the Swatantra Party and the Janata Party in the state.

Even Congress working president Jignesh Mevani, who is contesting from Vadgam assembly seat echoed a similar view on AAP.

Mevani said, “No one is in the contest, so one should not worry.”

Taking a dig at the aggressive campaign of AAP on social media, Mevani said, “From social media campaign space is not created on ground. And workers of Congress and its cadres present all over the booth level and village level. So let whosoever comes and contest here. We will see.”

Ahead of the 2017 assembly polls, Vaghela, a former Chief Minister of Gujarat announced that he was launching a new political front in Gujarat, the Prajasakti Democratic Party, which would contest the Gujarat assembly elections.

And five years ago, he floated the Jan Vikalp Party which contested the assembly election in 2017.

While launching the party in 2017, he claimed that it was a myth that a “triangular” contest was not possible in Gujarat.

However, his party did not win a single seat in Gujarat and its vote share was less than one per cent.

Vaghela in 1996, who was with the BJP then split the party and became chief minister with the support of the Congress

He, however, resigned after just around a year. But the BJP, which won in 1995, also won the subsequent election in 1998. The saffron party has not looked back since, and the contest in the state in assembly or Lok Sabha elections had remained bipolar.

The AAP is trying to break the trend and has fielded candidates in all the 182 assembly seats.

AAP’s chief ministerial candidate Isudan Gadhvi in an interview to The New Indian said that the Congress in 2022, is not the same as it was in 2017.

“It is much weaker. And once opposition becomes weak, space is created for another party, thus third front can emerge when one of the two main contestants are weak. This time both are weak and hence AAP is an option that the people are looking forward to,” Gadhvi said.

It is pertinent to mention that Keshubhai Patel had also launched Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) in January 2012, with support of about 5,00,000 people from the influential Leva Patel community, who had gathered at Khodaldham on the outskirts of Rajkot for a religious function.

The function was seen as a launchpad for Keshubhai Patel, who soon floated a new party, the GPP, ahead of the assembly elections later that year and went on to win two seats in 2012 assembly polls that year.

Keshubhai Patel scripted history in Gujarat after the saffron party first won in 1995 and he was made first chief minister of the party. However, rebellion by Vaghela a year later costed his chief ministership.

After feeling neglected he left the BJP in 2012.

Two years later, Keshubhai Patel’s GPP merged with the BJP in 2014 which won the elections with 115 seats and Patel announced his retirement from politics the same year.

Even Vaghela, who left the BJP in 1996 to float his own outfit, RJP, and merged it with the Congress ahead of the 1998 elections.He remained with the Congress till 2017.

In 1974, Chimanbhai Patel, who was forced to leave the post of Chief Minister on charges of corruption and was expelled from the party.

He then helped in the formation of Janata Morcha government under the leadership of Babubhai J Patel and again became the chief minister in 1990 heading Janata Dal-Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government.

On breaking of the coalition on 25 October 1990, he managed to retain CM his post with the help of 34 legislatures of Congress.

Later he joined Congress and remained it till his death on February 17, 1994.

In the 1960s during Congress’s rule, the Swatantra Party was the main opposition party in Gujarat, which later merged with the Janata Party.

In the early 1990s, the BJP replaced Janata Party and became the main opposition party in the state.

States such as Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, and Bihar have seen contests between three or more parties with non-Congress, non-BJP alternatives also dominating the political narrative.

To be sure, the electoral contests of states such as Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh have remained bipolar — between the Congress and the BJP.

Earlier, it was only MJP which was successful in Gujarat as it opened a new political front in the state because it  spearheaded the movement for a separate Gujarat (not including Saurashtra), which was part of Bombay state in the first decades of the Indian republic.

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