A group of non-BJP and non-Congress parties, including UPA constituent NCP, today came together on a common platform to fight communal forces in what is seen as a first step towards possible formation of a Third Front for the next Lok Sabha elections.
Significant among those present at the "Convention for People's Unity Against Communalism" sponsored by the Left parties here were Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and representatives of ruling AIADMK and BJD in Tamil Nadu and Odisha respectively.
Notwithstanding denials of leaders participating in the 14-party convention, there was a clear sense of expectation among them that this could become a platform against BJP and Congress in the Lok Sabha elections.
Nitish Kumar, who snapped his 17-year-old ties with BJP on the issue of Narendra Modi, made it as much clear when he raised the question himself.
"We are being asked whether a new front is being formed. As of today, there is nothing. But, we will have to think and unite against communalism, terrorism and fascism," he said.
Conscious of the pitfalls in forming a front, he said pointing to the leaders, "You know while getting together one or the other leader gets lost. I am talking of whatever unity is possible, maximum possible...While complete unity is not possible, we should work together with unity and coordinate. Complete unity is neither possible nor proper. A new morcha at this moment is neither possible nor valid."
For the record, NCP leader D P Tripathi, who attended the convention, and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury denied the convention was aimed at forming a Third Front.
But another NCP leader and Heavy Industry Minister in the UPA government Praful Patel said, "This is an era of coalition politics and in such a situation, you need to keep options open to work with other parties."
Yechury himself used a cricketing term to say, "There is nothing like a Third Front but this is a 'doosra' of Indian politics."
"If you know cricket, there is a delivery called 'doosra'," he said hinting at the possibility of parties getting together later.
SP leader Ramgopal Yadav said, "This is the beginning... you will see a lot in the coming days."
While TDP, which was invited, did not respond, Trinamool Congress and BSP were conspicuous by their absence, apparently because of the presece of their chief rivals - Left and the SP respectively.
Among the parties present today were CPI-M, CPI, SP, JD-U, JD-S, BJD, NCP, AIADMK, Asom Gana Parishad (AGP), RSP, Jharkhand Vikas Morcha, Forward Block, People's Party of Punjab (PPP) and Bharipa Bahujan Mahasangh.
In his speech, while referring to RSS and BJP, Nitish Kumar hit out at communal forces saying they were aiming at creating disturbances in the country in the name of religion.
He said the voice of secular forces needs to be strengthened after the Muzaffarnagar communal clashes as communal forces are trying to take advantage of riots.
"In this convention, we have to get together to discuss this issue. The threat of communalism is putting us on the firing line. I want to tell them that those who want to fire at us, we have taken a pledge to fight communalism. We know we are taking a big risk, but we are not gambling. Whatever the result, we will face it...In Bihar, we will fight but not accept defeat.
"We need to get together against communalism, terrorism and fascism and work in tandem with each other...Fascism is a new kind of tendency that has emerged in the society. This is not a democratic tradition...There is an attempt to derail democracy," he said.
Kumar also attacked the development model of Gujarat as propagated by BJP and said a model which is not in favour of the common man will not be accepted by the people.
"Such forces will never be accepted. People can see dreams. Some people do day-dreaming. But people also see a dream - that of brotherhood and development," Nitish said.
SP Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said his party has been fighting alone against communalism in Uttar Pradesh since 1980 and "the Left is supporting us".
Referring to the Ayodhya parikarma, he said "it was an attempt to create disturbances and riots in Uttar Pradesh." Without naming RSS and BJP, Yadav said "they had plans to foment trouble by creating communal riots but could not succeed (in Ayodhya). However, they succeeded in creating riots in Mufaffarnagar."
Expressing regret over the loss of lives in Muzaffarnagar riots, he said, "the morale of Muslims was not down".
Calling on secular forces to unite, he said communal forces will not be allowed to spread their wings in Uttar Pradesh. "They will be stopped wherever communal forces raise their head in Uttar Pradesh," he said.
CPI-M General Secretary Prakash Karat said Hindutva organisations are raising communal issues "and as a result we are seeing communal riots in the country".
Attacking Modi for claiming to be a Hindu nationalist, Karat said "there can only be a secular nationalist. We will not agree on anything else...Communal forces are raising their head and giving communal colour to protests and that is what led to Muzaffarnagar riots. All secular forces should get together against communal forces."
Former Prime Minister H D Devegowda said "we must get together to protect the minorities" and pledged his support to the resolution adopted here for unity among secular forces to fight fundamentalism.
JD-U leader Sharad Yadav said "we will fight it together. We are brothers who may be seperated apart but during a war we will stand and fight together."
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