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Monday, Aug 19, 2019

Lok Sabha elections 2019: Anti-BJP alliance talks gather pace as D-Day closes in

TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu has been meeting opposition leaders to discuss possible alliances in the post-election scenario.

lok-sabha-elections Updated: May 18, 2019 22:30 IST
HT Correspondents
HT Correspondents
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Chandrababu Naidu met BSP chief Mayawati at her house in Lucknow on Saturday,18th May 2019. (HT Photo/Subhankar Chakraborty)
Chandrababu Naidu met BSP chief Mayawati at her house in Lucknow on Saturday,18th May 2019. (HT Photo/Subhankar Chakraborty)

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a break in the Uttarakhand hills after a hard-fought poll campaign, opposition leaders moved on Saturday to try and stitch up an alternative to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, with less than a week left for the declaration of the Lok Sabha election results.

Telugu Desam Party leader and Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu revived his attempt to put together an anti-BJP coalition, meeting an array of opposition leaders on a day a second regional political satrap, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, backed Congress chief Rahul Gandhi to lead such a formation. The first to do so was MK Stalin of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.

In New Delhi, Naidu held talks with Gandhi at the latter’s residence, and also met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Communist Party of India’s G Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja, and Loktantrik Janata Dal founder Sharad Yadav.

“Naidu reportedly told all the leaders that we all should come together and put our act together,” a person familiar with the discussions told PTI on condition of anonymity. Naidu told Gandhi to have a strategy in place to move quickly and stake his claim for forming the next government if the NDA were to fall short of a majority in the Lok Sabha, PTI said.

After his meetings in New Delhi, Naidu flew to Lucknow where he held talks with Samajwadi Party national president Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati, who are fighting the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh together in a bid to not split the anti-BJP vote.

After an hour-long meeting with Yadav and before meeting Mayawati, Naidu refused to share details of the talks with journalists. “You will come to know at an appropriate time,” he said, and evaded a question on the likelihood of the SP chief attending a May 21 opposition meeting in New Delhi that Naidu has organised.

Yadav was silent but a senior SP leader said on condition of anonymity that the Uttar Pradesh alliance partners will first have meetings between themselves after the poll results are declared on May 23 and decide on their immediate post-poll course of action. Until then, they will not engage in any formal post-poll alliance talks with any party or political leaders, this person said.

The Andhra CM, an estranged ally of the BJP who has ruled himself out of the race to lead the anti-BJP coalition, seems to have emerged as the main interlocutor among a bevy of political parties led by strong personalities, who have often been at odds with one another although united in their strident opposition to the BJP.

Naidu said on Friday that even K Chandrashekar Rao, his bitter rival and the Telangana chief minister, is welcome to join the anti-BJP formation, or Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance), he is trying to create. Naidu has already held several rounds of discussions with Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee, Aam Aadmi Party national convenor Arvind Kejriwal and Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

On Friday, Gandhi voiced confidence that a secular formation will win the most seats in this Lok Sabha polls and that regional parties wouldn’t back the BJP. The Congress chief , however, refused to speculate about what the election outcome would be.

“I don’t see Mayawati ji, (Samajwadi Party patron) Mulayam Singh Yadav ji, Mamata ji, Chandrababu Naidu ji, I don’t see any of these people supporting the BJP, Narendra Modi government,” Gandhi said.

Amid the opposition efforts to cobble together an alliance, Modi, who addressed 142 election rallies during the poll campaign, embarked on a spiritual break on Saturday to Kedarnath, a Himalayan pilgrimage site, meditating at the cave shrine wrapped in an orange robe. Seated on a bed and propped up by a pillow, Modi was pictured inside the cave after having walked a red carpet to the shrine dedicated to Lord Shiva.

He had to take special permission from the national poll watchdog for the trip as election rules prohibit any campaigning 48 hours before voting, Press Trust of India (PTI) said. On his trip on Saturday, Modi also reviewed reconstruction projects after floods in Uttarakhand in 2013 killed some 6,000 people.

(PTI, AFP contributed to this story)

First Published: May 18, 2019 10:20 IST

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