If the Third Front -- currently comprising nine parties opposed to both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party -- manages to get more seats than the Congress, the Communist Party of India - Marxist led Left Front will work towards ensuring that the next prime minister is made from this bloc.
But if the Congress' own tally turns out to be larger than the cumulative strength of the alternative-seekers, the Left will support a Congressman for the top slot under stringent conditions.
While the CPI-M will try its best to defeat both the Congress and the BJP and install an 'alternative government', it is more or less ready with this alternative plan of supporting the Congress. According to top sources in the party, in case the Congress emerges as a larger force than the Third Front, the Left will have no other choice than to support a Congress prime minister to keep the BJP out of power.
"If we (the Third Front) get more seats than the Congress, our plan to have someone from among us appointed PM prevails. But if the Congress bags more seats, we have to see how we will support the next government," revealed a top CPI-M leader.
But to manipulate the tally of the Third Front, the Left has deliberately kept the conglomerate an 'open-ended' affair. The CPI-M is constantly harping that all recent coalition governments were formed after the election through realignment of political forces.
This, added with open invitation to non-BJP, non-Congress parties to join the Third Front later, will give the Left elbow room to muster more MPs than the Congress and thereby thwart Sonia Gandhi's ambition to see Manmohan Singh leading the next government.
"After the elections, other non-Congress and non-BJP parties will come with us. We will then formulate a common minimum programme," CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said on Monday.
Interestingly, although the Congress has a solid pre-poll alliance with parties like the Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Lok Janshakti Party and has roped in the Trinamool Congress and National Conference, the Left is discounting seats won by the allies of the United Progressive Alliance allies. For the Left, what counts is the Congress's strength on its own.
While the Left is still reluctant to use the much-maligned Third Front name for the new group, the CPI-M hopes that the name will lure more partners.