Opposition parties have struck a discordant note ahead of a key meeting proposed by Congress president Rahul Gandhi on May 21. The meeting, scheduled two days after polling for Lok Sabha elections concludes, was expected to see the Opposition parties firm up a plan for May 23 in case the results throw up a hung assembly. Telugu Desam Party chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu helmed the initiative and was meeting key opposition party leaders to firm up a plan on approaching the President to stake claim in case of a hung verdict. This would include who their prime ministerial face would be.
However, Naidu is learnt to have received negative signals from parties which could play a crucial role in deciding who gets the Delhi throne. According to reports, BSP supremo Mayawati, SP chief Akhilesh Yadav and TMC’s Mamata Banerjee have not responded positively to the idea of such a meet being held before the Lok Sabha election results are declared on May 23. This has also been conveyed to the Andhra CM.
While the leaders have not refused to be part of such a meeting, they are of the view that any pre-result attempt to decide on the PM face and firm up a plan on government formation will be inconsequential. A lot depends on how the parties perform individually and any such attempt should only be made once the results are declared.
Mamata, Mayawati and Akhilesh are expecting to play a key role in government formation. While the SP-BSP combine is hoping to deal a body blow to the BJP in Uttar Pradesh where it swept 71 of the 80 Lok Sabha seats in the state, the TMC has pulled out all stops to prevent BJP’s rising popularity in West Bengal to translate into seats. In the 2014 general elections, the BJP had managed to win only two seats.
Other key regional leaders like Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik, his Telangana counterpart K Chandrasekhar Rao and YSR Congress founder Jagan Mohan Reddy have also kept a safe distance from the Opposition parties. It is believed they too would like to evaluate their stand in terms of which way their support will go only after the results are declared.
With six phases of voting in the Lok Sabha elections already over and the final phase scheduled for May 19, parties will also be wary of being seen as aligning forces with a particular side before polling concludes. However, the major worry for Congress is that the signals from opposition parties have not been too heartening. There are mixed reports on the outcome of the Lok Sabha elections. While some have predicted a clear majority to the ruling NDA, others have suggested massive damage to the BJP in the Hindi heartland states, particularly in Uttar Pradesh.
Regional parties like BJD, YSRCP and the TRS know that they could play kingmakers if the ruling establishment fails to get a majority on its own. While they may fancy their chances of a bigger role at the Centre, the Congress party’s own tally is something that they will watch out for. Any decision on allying with the Congress in government formation is likely only after the Lok Sabha election results are declared.