From 277 to 368—there is wide variance in the numbers thrown up by the exit polls that predict victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). But while only May 23 will tell us the results, political parties are not taking these predictions seriously at all. In facts, movements are already afoot on the national front for anti-BJP alliances.
On May 18 and 19, Andhra Pradesh chief minister Chandrababu Naidu met a number of leaders, from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi to Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati. Similarly, Congress president Rahul Gandhi met Pawar, both of them met former President Pranab Mukherjee. Highly placed sources said despite the numbers thrown in the air by the exit polls, this parleying of senior leaders shows they are preparing for the possibility of a hung Parliament.
Naidu has invited leaders from across the non-NDA and non-UPA parties for a discussion on May 21, and sources say the leaders will try to build consensus on forming a non-BJP government. Though the rivals of Naidu from the Telugu land, like YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy and Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief K Chandrashekhar Rao are unlikely to be present for the meeting, it is expected that other leaders, such as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well as Mayawati and Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Akhilesh Yadav will attend the meeting.
Sources said the leaders would likely draft a letter addressed to President Ramnath Kovind, requesting him not to hurriedly invite anyone for swearing in to form the government. “There is a possibility that the parties attending the May 21 meeting will get more numbers than current NDA. Of course, it includes the Congress’ active participation or support. So, in that case, President should not make the invitation only looking at the single largest party’s number,” said a senior leader from the opposition camp. The possibility of the BJP remaining the single largest party was underlined in this leader’s statement.
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There will be another meeting on the evening of the result day called by Sonia Gandhi. The back-door efforts of the Congress are on to get leaders like Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik, Telangana chief minister KC Rao and even YSRCP leader Jagan Reddy on board for this meeting. So, all of these three leaders who may not join the meeting on May 21 could come to the May 23 meeting and sign the above-mentioned letter. Of course, these three southern leaders attending the meeting called by Sonia Gandhi depends on the verdict numbers. But other prominent leaders such as Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Tejashwi Yadav and others are likely to attend the May 21 meeting in any case.
The efforts of the current parleying are aimed at handing over the letter to President Kovind by May 23 itself.
In a situation where the parties attending the May 21 meeting have more numbers but the BJP becomes the single largest party, the obvious question will arise before President Kovind — whom to invite first for forming the government? In such a case, the President may go with the BJP, due to ‘various possible reasons’. It will give the BJP a 15-day window to get the numbers to prove majority. Opposition leaders are in no mood to allow the BJP that time. So, a letter to President Kovind, before he invites any side for government formation, will have the desired impact.
But we shall have to wait to find out who forms the next government — the single largest party or the single largest front?