Despite an outright rejection of its overtures, the Congress is confident that the estranged Left will be left with no choice but to support the UPA over a "communal force" like the BJP and feels that differences over foreign policy and the India-US nuclear deal can be "managed".
But the Communists, who are trying hard to install a non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front government, have made it clear that they are not ready to enter the door left open for them.
"If they have an enlightened view of their interests and national interests, they will wake up to post-poll reality and know whom to support. Given a choice between a communal force like the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) and secular pluralist Congress, they will back us," veteran Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar told IANS on phone from Mayalatidurai, his constituency in Tamil Nadu where he is campaigning.
But Aiyar makes it clear there won't be any compromise with either the India-US nuclear deal or the defence framework agreement with Washington, which have already been sealed.
"None of their apprehensions about the course of foreign policy have turned out to be true," Aiyar said when asked about the Left's contention that India was moving into the US strategic orbit.
Agreed Prithviraj Chavan, minister of state in the Prime Minister's Office: "One thing is clear. They will never support the BJP-led NDA. There is a much bigger threat from communal forces and the Left realises it."
Chavan also sought to gloss over ideological differences with the Left on the nuclear deal, the showpiece of the UPA's foreign policy and the pivot of India's transformed relationship with the US.
"They don't have issues with the nuclear deal. They are against a larger relationship with the US. But these differences can be managed."
"We had a very good relationship with the Left parties. All these permutations and combinations will start only after May 16," Chavan replied when asked what package deal the Congress was ready to offer the Left to win their support in case of the Congress emerging as the single largest party.
In a clear sign that that the ruling Congress-led UPA is not sure of getting the numbers to form the next government, the Congress has launched a concerted media offensive to win over the Left parties, which tried to topple their government over the nuclear deal last year.
Senior leaders like Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee have repeatedly said in media interviews that the Congress was hopeful of support from the Left parties in forming the next government.
Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi was the latest to woo the Left. He critiqued the Left's views on the nuclear deal as "20-30 years old" and admitted that there are ideological differences between the Congress and the Left. But he was confident about winning over the Left.
"We will do better than last time. And I am confident that the Left will support Manmohan Singh," he said at his Tuesday press conference in the capital.
The Left leaders see such confidence as "misplaced" and a "sign of arrogance".
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Prakash Karat disdainfully dismissed Rahul Gandhi's remarks and made it clear that the Left would "try to form a non-Congress government".
"It will not work. I don't foresee any possibility," Communist Party of India (CPI) leader D. Raja told IANS when asked whether the Left would support the UPA.
CPI leader A.B. Bardhan was emphatic about repudiating any possibility of supporting the UPA. "Under no conditions we will support the UPA as long as the Congress does not change its policies. And we don't see that happening."
"We broke with the Congress on issues of policy and not for some whimsy. The Congress should not imagine we will enter the door just because it's been left open. It looks like we have been taken for granted."
"Now they are going soft. They are not sure of their numbers. They don't think they will come to power without a prop," sneered Bardhan.
Political analysts are also sceptical of any rapprochement between the Congress and the Left. "It's too large a chasm to bridge. The two broke up on a very important initiative like the nuclear deal. And nothing has changed on ground on that issue," said Mahesh Rangarajan, a political analyst.