NEW DELHI (AFP) - With a month to go before Indian elections, the "Third Front," launched amid much fanfare to challenge the two main political parties, has got off to a rocky start. The rag-tag grouping of nine left-leaning and regional parties has tried to sell itself as a viable alternative to the ruling Congress Party and opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the run-up to the general elections to be staged from April 16 to May 13. On paper they seem a disparate group, but they say: "they are a "democratic, secular and left-wing" bloc united by their desire to elbow aside India's two traditional parties, which they accuse of failing to tackle such issues as unemployment and food shortages." Despite attracting a crowd of around 200,000 people at a rally this month, observers have poured cold water over the idea that the ad hoc alliance can stick together - either before or after the election. "This is a replay of the 1990s," said Subhash Agrawal, political analyst and editor of India Focus magazine, referring to the anti-BJP and anti-Congress alliances that take shape every election year. He said poor planning and inflated egos were likely to prevent the Third Front from ever forming a government. "These people don't even want to campaign with each other sometimes," he added. Deve Gowda, a former premier, has spearheaded the loose-knit coalition, whose most prominent parties are the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M), the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagan (AIADMK) representing the states of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu respectively. Gowda led one of the few non-Congress and non-BJP governments as prime minister in 1996, but his tenure lasted less than a year. The lack of a common platform or ideology means such pre-poll alliances have crumbled once results are announced, leaving them to act at best as a spoiler to Congress and BJP hopes and instead prop up larger parties, analysts say. At a recent dinner for Third Front leaders held by Mayawati Kumari, the firebrand leader of India's low-caste Dalits, who leads the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), party representatives did their best to project a united front. Mayawati, the chief minister of India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh, which also holds the most seats in parliament, has flirted with the idea of joining the coalition but insisted the BSP will contest elections on its own. Her party could bring in as many as 40 seats. But even if the fragile grouping defies all expectations and makes a strong showing, it is not fielding candidates in enough constituencies to grab the 273 seats needed to form a majority government. Parsa Venkateshwar Rao, political columnist with the Daily News and Analysis newspaper, says the Third Front parties will adopt an approach of "sheer pragmatism" toward government formation. "That's why they're saying we'll make the necessary alliances only after the election," he said. Virtually all of the main parties in the Third Front have at one time formally lent their support to either a BJP or Congress-led government in exchange for a chance to be part of the ruling coalition. There will be no political loyalty or ideology after the polls - just hard bargaining, analysts say. It will "only be about how many concessions they can get from either the BJP or Congress," said Sanjay Kumar, a fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies in New Delhi.