Much has been written about the imminent arrival in New Delhi of the Third Front, the joker in the Indian political pack that has talked itself up as a serious alternative to the two national parties in the 2009 parliamentary elections.
Whether this claim, that some take rather very seriously, is sustainable is the moot question. The answer may be no, if the history of this rag-tag group that has emerged with near-decadal precision since 1967 is any guide.
The rise of these parties was part of a process of the broadening of Indian democracy, bringing into the public sphere middle and lower castes, religious minorities and tribals in their own right.
But this broadening has not completely gone hand in hand with it a deepening of democracy, empowering these traditionally subordinate groups.