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Scramble for allies; Sonia in touch with Pawar, Lalu

india Updated: May 14, 2009 22:10 IST
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Congress President Sonia Gandhi met NCP leader Sharad Pawar and spoke to RJD chief Lalu Prasad and LJP leader Ram Vilas Paswan, as the scramble for coalition building among the three main political formations for government formation intensified on Thursday.

With less then two days to go for the vote count, the Left spearheading the Third Front was working out strategies to keep the constituents together amid reports that the combine will tactically let a Congress-led minority government run as a strategy to keep the BJP out of power at all costs.

The BJP top brass held two meetings during the day under the leadership of its prime ministerial candidate L K Advani for some "stock-taking" and to chalk out a strategy for wooing prospective allies to form the next government.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who is likely to be deputed by the BJP to rope in AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa into the NDA fold, was also present at this strategy meeting.

Congress is also reportedly wooing the former Tamil Nadu chief minister who had said she had got "feelers from many places" for her support. The ruling party said its alliance is fully intact and was working with all likeminded parties.

The Congress and the Samajwadi party also tried to bury the hatchet with the mood being to put all acrimony during behind.

After speaking to Congress leader Digvijay Singh, Amar Singh whose Samajwadi party is a key member of the "Fourth Front" that also included Lalu's RJD and LJP"s Paswan, said it will decide on his group supporting the Congress only after the results are out.

The national capital also geared up for a decisive battle for power with political managers making claims and counter-claims on the prospects of getting the magic figure of 272. Exit polls by TV channels projected a hung Parliament but gave a slight edge to the Congrress-UPA.

The Left is reported to be determined not to give the BJP any scope to exploit the post-poll numbers game to form a government and that it may be ready for a Congress-led minority government.

After the conclusion of the final phase of Lok Sabha polls, the Congress is hopeful that the Left parties would "follow their principled stand" in the post May 16 scenario.

Pawar, who appeared to have given mixed signals with his partymen pushing his claims for prime ministership, drove to Sonia Gandhi's residence last night and held discussions for over 30 minutes, UPA sources said.

The Congress president also spoke on on telephone to Lalu and Paswan as TV exit polls predicted a slight edge for the Congress-led UPA in an expected photo-finish.

During the campaign, there was a lot of bad blood between leaders of Congress and RJD, LJP and SP, the troika forming the Fourth Front, but Gandhi scrupulously kept herself out of the war of words.

Highly placed sources said Gandhi was in regular touch with allies and the party would wait for small outfits to open their cards once the results are out.

Asked about possible tie-ups, the Congress said that it only considers BJP and Shiv Sena as communal parties.

"Only BJP and Shiv Sena are communal. We won't have anything to do with these parties who spread hate and communalism," Digvijay Singh said.

Asked whether Congress would seek an alliance with AIADMK, he merely said "AIADMK is not a communal party" in signs of the party warming up to Jayalalithaa.

The presence of S Gurumurthy of Swadeshi Jagran Manch at the BJP strategy meeting appeared to suggest that the saffron party is wooing Jayalalithaa. Both the leaders are said to enjoy good equations.

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Paswan--who are members of the so-called Fourth Front-- discussed the future course of action for government formation at the Centre.

Yadav and SP general secretary Amar Singh drove to the residence of Paswan.

RJD leader Lalu Prasad, who is also part of the new alliance was, however, not present as he was in Patna.

After the meeting, Singh said the Fourth Front will decide on the future course of action after the results.

"We will decide and come up with a strategy...The alliance is not restricted to the elections. It will continue post-poll," Singh, flanked by both Yadav and Paswan, said.

When asked about the the absence of the RJD chief, he said "Prasad is in Patna. We spoke to him over telephone."