New Delhi: Never in the past, Prime Ministerial candidates had become a major issue in the Lok Sabha polls like this time when gloves are off from rival sides.
Prime Ministerial candidates of all hues have become the favourite punching bags like never before, be it Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the UPA or leader of the Opposition L K Advani of the NDA.
The field is wide open in the Third Front for the top job but the alliance is itself being poked fun at over the ticklish issue.
Not a day passes when rival sides fail to target the Prime Ministerial candidates with BJP projecting Singh as a “weak” leader and Congress hitting back showing the “dismal” record of Advani as Home Minister.
Singh has been challenged by the BJP for a TV debate and the 76-year-old leader, who recently underwent a bypass surgery, is being asked by the saffron forces that why he was not contesting the Lok Sabha elections.
While no leader is being projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate by the Third Front, the grouping is itself being ridiculed as an alliance still in search of a Prime Minister.
Targeting the fledgling Third Front on the issue of Prime Ministerial candidature, leaders of both the UPA and the NDA claim that it would collapse like a pack of cards on the leadership issue with several ambitious politicians in its ranks waiting for the ‘big´ opportunity.
Former prime minister H D Deve Gowda, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu, AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and BSP chief and Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mayawati are Prime Ministerial hopefuls of the Third Front. BSP is saying for quite some time that its aims to see Mayawati as Prime Minister.
Interestingly, CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat, spearheading the Third Front initiative, is not ruling out the Marxists participation in the government this time.
In 1996, when the CPI-M veteran Jyoti Basu had a chance to lead the United Front government, the party had decided against participating in the government, a move dubbed as a “historical blunder” by Basu himself.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is part of the UPA, has questioned Congress’ claims that Singh is the Prime Ministerial candidate of the ruling alliance, maintaining that he was only supported by the party.
The Maratha strongman, who has been making the right noises about the need for cooperation with the Left, is welcome to the Third Front after the elections, suggests Karat.
In the last Lok Sabha elections, the BJP-led NDA had projected then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the Prime Ministerial candidate and had gone hammer and tongs against Congress asking who was its candidate for the top job.
While Congress President Sonia Gandhi was leading the party in the polls, the party wanted the leadership issue to be kept ambiguous to keep the unity of secular forces intact.