A day before 59 constituencies vote Sunday in the seventh and last phase of a bitterly fought Lok Sabha election, Opposition parties Saturday began reaching out to each other to discuss a post-election front even as the ruling BJP exuded confidence of returning to power with an absolute majority.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu spearheaded the effort to bring disparate Opposition parties, which fought against each other in several states, together to forge a post-poll front. On Saturday, he met Congress president Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Uttar Pradesh gathbandhan leaders Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati and CPI leaders S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja.
He is learnt to have told several leaders that Opposition parties should waste no time in securing numbers in the event that the ruling BJP and the NDA fall short of the majority mark. He is said to have suggested that the Opposition approach President Ram Nath Kovind even before the results, to urge him not to invite the BJP in a hurry if such a situation emerged.
The Congress, too, began reaching out. Sources said its top leaders Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad besides Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath have already spoken to many Opposition party leaders in the last couple of days and urged them to stay united to deny the BJP a shot at power again.
Naidu, who met Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury Friday, began his day meeting CPI leaders S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja. He then met Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and LJP chief Sharad Yadav before flying to Lucknow for talks with SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati. Senior CPI leader D Raja, too, spoke to Yadav, who told him over phone that all parties should unite to keep the BJP out of power. Sources said Pawar could meet UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi Sunday.
According to sources, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held deliberations with top party leaders to gear up for a possible hung verdict. Rahul has convened another meeting of party leaders on May 22, a day before the counting of votes, said sources.
However, some Opposition leaders appeared uncomfortable with Naidu’s initiative, arguing that his aggressive bid to emerge as the alliance builder could repel YSRCP chief Jagan Mohan Reddy and send him towards the BJP. Many expect Jagan to win more Lok Sabha seats than Naidu’s TDP in Andhra Pradesh.
The TDP chief has already held several rounds of discussions with various Opposition leaders, including West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Naidu’s message was that “we all should come together and put our act together”, to form the next government by keeping the BJP out, according to one leader.
Among the seats that vote Sunday is Varanasi, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking a second term. Polling will take place in all the 13 seats of Punjab, 13 seats in Uttar Pradesh, nine seats in West Bengal, eight seats each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, four seats of Himachal Pradesh, three seats in Jharkhand and the lone seat in Chandigarh.