Verdict sealed, parties get hung ho
Political strategies started unfolding after the final phase of polling on Monday, with three exit polls predicting a hung House and others indicating that the NDA would either fall just below the half-way mark or just to keep its head above water.
Political strategies started unfolding after the final phase of polling on Monday, with three exit polls predicting a hung House and others indicating that the NDA would either fall just below the half-way mark or just manage to keep its head above water. The Sensex reacted to this scenario by falling 113 points.
The BJP seemed reconciled to the possibility that the ruling alliance might not get the 272 seats it needed to form a government — a fact evident from statements by BJP leaders over the past few days.
On Monday, there was no official claim by the party that the NDA would gain a comfortable majority. BJP leaders privately admitted that they were now looking for new allies to muster the numbers they needed, while ruling out tie-ups with the Congress, Left and Muslim League.
There were reports that Akali leaders, particularly Parkash Singh Badal, were in touch with Om Prakash Chautala's INLD and the National Conference. Chautala's son Ajay said the three parties would jointly take a decision on their post-poll strategy.
If one were to go by the exit polls, the BSP will retain its 1999 tally and could in fact increase it. With the SP saying it would make every attempt to prevent "communal forces" from coming to power, BSP leader Mayawati's options were a matter of speculation.
That the decks seemed stacked against the NDA seemed clear, however, in case it fell substantially short of the magic figure of 272 as some exit polls suggested. The DMK, a crucial Congress ally, declared that there was no question of returning to the ruling alliance.
The DMK's statement, made by party chief M. Karunanidhi in Chennai, was significant given some exit poll predictions that the alliance would sweep the polls in Tamil Nadu, with 30 or more seats.
The Left also weighed in on behalf of the Congress-led alliance. CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet said there was no possibility of a third front government. He said any improvement in the Congress's tally would amount to a rejection of the NDA.
Surjeet added, however, that the question of the prime minister's post would be decided through consultations. The Left will play a crucial role if the exit poll predictions of a substantial chunk of seats from West Bengal and Kerala prove correct.
The Congress was, however, keeping its cards close to its chest, even as it started preparing its strategy to widen its alliances. On Monday, party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi said Congress chief Sonia Gandhi would be prime minister if the party got a majority on its own, though allies would remain allies "through thick and thin". If the Congress did not get a majority, coalition partners would meet to decide on a leader, he said.
Rahul Gandhi said the party's "governing body" would decide on the prime minister's post.