Hectic parleys as counting day nears
As part of his efforts to unite the opposition, Andhra Pradesh chief minister and Telugu Desam Party leader N Chandrababu Naidu held a meeting with his West Bengal counterpart, Mamata Banerjee, at her Kolkata residence in Kalighat, on forming a non-Bharatiya Janata Party government at the centre in case of a hung verdict.
Meanwhile, a day after exit polls offered mixed predictions for the SP-Bahujan Samaj Party alliance in Uttar Pradesh — suggesting a wide range of between 33 and 68 seats — SP president AkhileshYadav called on BSP chief Mayawati at her residence in Lucknow on Monday.
Yadav also telephoned Banerjee during the day and discussed the strategy of the “Mahagathbandhan”, news agency Press Trust of India reported.
Naidu had a 45-minute meeting with Banerjee on the future strategies of the mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance), during which he discussed the possibilities of forming a non-BJP government, which would include regional parties, with the support of the Congress. Neither Naidu nor Banerjee spoke to the media after their meeting.
Banerjee’s nephew and Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee, who was the party’s candidate from Diamond Harbour, and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim, were also present at the meeting. The leaders reportedly also discussed a common minimum agenda, PTI reported.
“It was decided at today’s meeting that a detailed discussion will be held among other political players of Mahagathbandhan in the event of a hung verdict after the poll results are declared on May 23,” highly-placed sources told PTI.
Naidu also briefed Banerjee regarding his meetings with Congress president Rahul Gandhi, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar and Communist Party of India-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury, on Sunday.
“I met all so that a collective decision is taken. I will continue my efforts till May 23,” Naidu said before leaving for Kolkata.
In Lucknow, Yadav and Mayawati met at the latter’s residence, where the leaders made a constituency-wise assessment of their performance.
Yadav posted a photograph of the meeting on Twitter, stating, “Now, getting ready for the next step.”
“We will talk after the results on May 23. I maintain my stand that the gathbandhan is winning 56 seats in UP,” he said.
People familiar with the matter in the SP said the two leaders would now make courtesy phone calls to the non-Congress leaders like West Bengal CM Banerjee or NCP chief Sharad Pawar.
On Saturday, Naidu had visited Lucknow and met both Yadav and Mayawati, separately. He invited them to the May 21 opposition meeting in Delhi. However, according to a senior SP leader who spoke on condition of anonymity, both were non-committal about the meeting. He said that Yadav and Mayawati were not keen to participate in any formal opposition meeting before May 23, as they wanted to adopt a wait and watch approach.
(With inputs from PTI)