With barely a fortnight to go before results are declard on May 16, the Congress, based on feedback received from its workers, is hopeful of emerging as the single largest party in the new Lok Sabha and forming a government.
The parallel Congressmen are drawing is with the P.V. Narasimha Rao-led government it formed in June 1991 which survived its initial years despite holding only 242 seats — 30 seats short of a majority.
Similarly the party has rejected the possibility of a 1996-1997 like scenario — where it had backed the United Front governments of H.D. Deve Gowda and I.K. Gujral — recurring.
“At the time we had not taken a position on coalitions,” said a top Congress leader. “Since then there has been a paradigm shift in our perceptions. We are now completely reconciled to being part of coalitions.”
Congressmen expect to win around 170 seats, with their present allies contributing another 30. They know they must win at least around 25 seats more than the BJP in order to attract more allies, which in turn may finally force estranged former partners like the Left and Telangana Rashtriya Samiti to renew support as well — all of which may ultimately take it within striking distance of 272 seats, the minimum needed for a majority.
“There could be a situation where some parties either give outside support or stay neutral so that the new government is able to function,’’ said a well-placed Congress leader seeking anonymity.
But this would create its own complications. The parties the Congress is likely to turn to include the Left, Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party, K. Chandrashekhara Rao’s TRS and J. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal and possibly even the JD(U), which is part of the BJP-led NDA.
But the re-establishing of Congress-Left relations would undermine the Congress’s new-found ties with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress. So too the AIADMK’s tacit or open support would inevitably
spell the end of the Congress-DMK relations and any move by the JD(U) towards the Congress would see the collapse of Nitish Kumar’s JD (U)-BJP government in Bihar.
“These parties could be among the neutrals,’’ the Congress leader said.