Believing that the BJP-led NDA will fall well short of the halfway mark of 272, the Congress, in consultation with many Opposition parties, has devised a three-stage plan which will be put into action for staking claim to government formation if the trends Thursday signal a shift in favour of the Opposition.
Sources in Congress said three letters have been drafted by the legal team of the Congress, headed by Abhishek Manu Singhvi, to operationalise the plan. If the NDA appears to be falling well short of the simple majority mark, the Opposition plans to announce formation of a new alliance with a new name. It will be UPA plus since there will be many new constituents.
The plan is to send a letter, with signatures of the leaders of all constituents of the front, to President Ram Nath Kovind, informing him about the formation of the new alliance. It would be followed by two more letters, one staking claim for formation of the government, and the other late at night, informing him about the leader of the new front.
While Singhvi, who did the drafting, declined comment when he was contacted, sources said the documents have been prepared by a small core group which included him, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel, Jairam Ramesh and Rahul Gandhi’s close aide K Raju.
Despite exit poll projections predicting a clear win for the BJP, the Congress believes the BJP could emerge as the single largest party but the NDA will fall short of the majority by a good distance. Sources in the Congress said the party will not shy away from letting one of the regional leaders on whom a broad consensus emerges to head the government. The party, sources said, is ready to follow the Karnataka model.
The Congress’s internal assessment — and it varies from leader to leader — is that the party will get anywhere between 120 and 140 seats. And along with many of the regional parties, it believes the Opposition will be in a position to form the next government. The Congress is also depending heavily on the SP-BSP alliance in Uttar Pradesh to stop the BJP in its tracks.
The Congress hopes rest on the assessment that the party will do exceedingly well in Kerala, win more seats in Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra and Gujarat and gain some in the Hindi heartland states of Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Chhattisgarh which the BJP swept in 2014.
The Congress’s confidence also stems from the fact that although the BJP registered an unprecedented success in 2014, its own net votes did not erode massively in comparison to the BJP’s stupendous jump. The Congress had polled over 10.6 crore votes as compared to 11.9 crore in 2009.
Aware of the fact that some of the regional parties could be not very enthusiastic to its overtures, the Congress has been more than willing to let TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu and NCP chief Sharad Pawar deal with Akhilesh Yadav, Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee, who are in the Opposition camp, and Naveen Patnaik, Jagan Mohan Reddy and K Chandrasekhar Rao who are not in the NDA tent.
Naidu and Pawar have already conveyed to the Congress the minds of many of these leaders, prompting the Congress to signal that it is ready to be flexible and willing to play any role to keep the BJP and Modi out of power. Most Opposition leaders have been in touch with each other over the last week with Naidu personally meeting almost all the main players. Congress president Rahul Gandhi and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi have taken a back seat, at least in talking to Opposition leaders.
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