Campaigning for the fifth and final phase of the 15th Lok Sabha elections ended on Monday, setting the stage for post-poll alliance discussions.
The rhetoric of the past few weeks of campaigning gave way to pragmatism on Monday. Almost every political party displayed its willingness to ‘keep options open’ in the event of a hung verdict — where no single party or formation gets the magic figure of 272 seats.
A day after its chief K. Chandrashekhar Rao, 55, attended a rally of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), in Ludhiana, Punjab, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) said on Monday that its alliance with the Left and the TDP was intact.
“Our objective is to secure statehood for Telangana. Since the NDA stood a chance of coming to power at the Centre, we have extended support to it,” senior TRS leader T Harish Rao told reporters in Hyderabad.
Rao asserted that the TRS was part of the four-party Grand Alliance including the Left in Andhra Pradesh.
On the last day of campaigning, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached out to the Left parties, with whom he had done business during the first four and a half years of the 14th Lok Sabha, before falling out on the question of Indo-US nuclear deal. At a public meeting in Ludhiana, Singh indicated that unhappy UPA allies could well be mollified.
Asked specifically about whether he would ask the left to support the UPA again, Singh said at a media briefing: “I believe all secular forces have an obligation to work together to give the country a purposeful, secular government.”
The day also saw West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, 65, making it clear that the Left was keeping all options open, including working with the Congress. “Let the elections be over. Let the results be announced. Then we will take a final decision. At this moment of time, I just cannot say who is going to support whom.”
Bhattacharjee also made the right noises about secularism being the foremost concern.
Even Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh, 53, made a statement on Monday saying “No one is (an) untouchable in politics because the hung Parliament situation seems here to stay. Unfortunately, people have lost faith in national parties and this why the regional parties have come up to support and form the government at the centre.”
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, 58, who was being wooed by every party just 48 hours back, came in for sharp criticism from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“There is no doubt that Nitish Kumar professes to be a secular leader. But yesterday, after seeing him shake hands with Modi, a doubt did arise in my mind,” said Singh
On Wednesday, 10.7 crore voters will vote to elect 86 MPs to the Lok Sabha from among the 1,432 candidates in the fray.
The prominent candidates from the nine states and Union Territories going to the polls include Home Minister P Chidambaram, 63, former Indian cricket captain Mohammed Azharuddin, 46 and controversial BJP leader Varun Gandhi, 29. Varun’s mother, former Union minister Maneka Gandhi, 53 and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, 55, are also in the reckoning.