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Medha Patkar forms political front

By Kalpana Sharma

MUMBAI, MARCH 17. Medha Patkar of the Narmada Bachao Andolan today announced that she and several others from the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) have formed the People's Political Front (PPF) and that they plan to contest the Lok Sabha elections.

Ms. Patkar, however, refused to confirm whether she would contest from Rajapur, Maharashtra, against the sitting Shiv Sena MP, Suresh Prabhu. "This is not a question of an individual decision," she said.

In the next few days, the PPF will release a People's Manifesto and also announce whether and how many of them are standing for elections.

Asked on what basis they would decide where to contest, Ms. Patkar said that apart from areas where the constituents of the NAPM were strong, they would go "wherever we are invited." The PPF is considering putting up candidates or campaigning in constituencies in Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Rajasthan.

On the possibility of her contesting from Rajapur, a seat that was held by the Janata Dal until 1989 but was captured by the Shiv Sena in 1996, she said that she had not made up her mind. She said had recently been to the area because of the various people's movements that she supported. "The issue is not just interlinking rivers, or mandir or masjid," she said, but the rights of farmers, of women, of employment, of saving the environment and the livelihood of fisherfolk.

"Corporatisation and criminalisation of politics is a major concern," she said. The PPF's decision to enter electoral politics was aimed at "changing the nature of politics."

In Maharashtra, Ms. Patkar said, the Peasants and Workers Party led by N. D. Patil and the Left Front were close allies, but the PPF was not a part of any established party or even of any alliance. "Our main aim is to defeat the communal alliance. For that we may not need to enter into a formal alliance with any party but we can take their support or lend our support to the secular forces."

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