It was late in the evening. A heavy-set man hurried past the bank of cameras outside 10, Janpath, home of Congress president Sonia Gandhi (62).
He had his hands up, unsuccessfully covering his face. And he left quietly through the back gate.
It was the JD-S leader and former Karnataka chief minister H.D. Kumaraswamy (49).
He didn’t want it known that he — the son of H.D. Deve Gowda (76), the Third F]ront doyen — had had a meeting with the Congress chief.
Late night, he sought to cover it up by claiming that it was only a “courtesy call’’ and the JD (S) remains part of the Third Front.
With just one phase of polling left, which too will have been wrapped up by Wednesday evening, parties are getting ready for the battle for numbers. None of them realistically hope to make it on its own.
Both the Congress and the BJP have set up their teams of charmers to win friends and allies as soon as results are out. In fact, they have gone to work already — Kumaraswamy’s meeting, for one.
If JD-S bolts, it would be the second desertion from the ranks of the Left-led Third Front — the first was Telangana Rashtra Samiti chief Chandrashekhar Rao (55), who stunned everyone by turning up at a National Democratic Alliance rally in Ludhiana on Sunday.
The NDA has already let it be known that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, 59 and RSS ideologue S. Gurumurthy are working on AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa (61).
And former BJP president Venkaiah Naidu (59) is marking Chandrababu Naidu (59).
NDA convenor Sharad Yadav (61), told a TV news network on Tuesday, “We are in touch Jayalalithaa and Mayawati (the latter has been assigned to former UP minister Lalji Tandon).” Arun Jaitley (56), is in touch with BSP’s Rajya Sabha member Satish Mishra (56), Mayawati’s confidant.
Former Maharashtra deputy CM Gopinath Munde (59), has opened a channel of communication with Raj Thackeray (40), just in case.
The negotiators are on the job. Sonia is leading from the front. “Leaders of all allies and possible allies are a phone call away for her,” said a party leader. But before Sonia steps in, a core team including key players like Pranab Mukherjee (73), A K Antony (68), Ahmed Patel (59), Ghulam Nabi Azad (60), Kamal Nath (62) and Digvijay Singh (62) would take care of the rough edges while looking for allies.
The Congress has reportedly opened a channel of communication with Nitish though a Bihar MP.
Azad is reportedly working on Tamil Nadu parties. Antony is in touch with other leaders in the south and Digvijay with smaller parties in UP and the Hindi heartland.