Lok Sabha elections 2019: Undaunted by exit polls, Naidu meets Mamata in Kolkata with his plan
N Chandrababu Naidu has already met Congress president Rahul Gandhi twice, once with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, as well as other leaders including Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, BSP’s Mayawati and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.Updated: May 20, 2019 19:58 IST
N Chandrababu Naidu, the Telugu Desam Party boss who has taken on a lead role to unite opposition parties in case exit polls that predicted a comfortable majority for the NDA are wide off the mark, will meet Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on late Monday afternoon.
The Chief Minister, who is predicted to be struggling to retain power back home in Andhra Pradesh, has been flying between Delhi and Lucknow over the last few days to touch base with top opposition leaders. Naidu has already met Congress president Rahul Gandhi twice, once with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, as well as other leaders including Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, BSP’s Mayawati and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar.
Naidu landed in Kolkata at about 5 pm and had a detailed meeting with Bengal chief minister at her Kalighat residence soon after.
News agency PTI quoted TMC sources to stress that the two leaders “decided to hold detailed discussion” with other opposition leaders after the Lok Sabha poll results are declared on May 23.
Opposition leaders who have interacted with Naidu over the last few days told HT that the Andhra chief minister’s assessment was that the BJP could, notwithstanding the boisterous NDA victory projected by exit polls, end up getting less than 200 seats. If this happens, Naidu believes the gap between the NDA and the opposition parties would not be wide and the opposition parties should be prepped to move in to stake claim.
Naidu’s proposal is that opposition parties should submit a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind declaring their intent to form a coalition government even before the votes are counted.
Not everyone in the opposition camp is convinced yet.
The Left, for one, is convinced that the opposition should not jump the gun. “We have advised other parties that we should maintain our unity in the public ...and give public statements about our commitment. We can only meet the President after the results are actually out,” a senior Left leader said.
At a Press conference in Amaravati before flying to Kolkata, Naidu told reporters that the opposition parties would take the next step on approaching the President only after arriving at a consensus among all the anti-BJP forces.
“After discussing with Mamata, I will go to Delhi later in the evening to continue deliberations with the other parties. Later, we shall take a decision on meeting the President of India,” the Andhra chief minister said.
Exit polls released after voting for the seven-phase marathon elections ended on Sunday have predicted that the BJP-led ruling national coalition NDA would get a clear majority, quite a few predicted a comfortable majority for the BJP too.
N Chandrababu Naidu tweeted his rebuttal to the exit poll predictions, reminding that these surveys had “time and again” failed to catch the people’s pulse. “While undoubtedly TDP govt will be formed in AP, we are confident that non-BJP parties will form a non-BJP govt at the center (sic),” Naidu said in a late night tweet on Sunday.
Mamata Banerjee also ran down the election exit polls, a poll of voters taken immediately after they exit the polling stations. Banerjee, who was among the first opposition leader to diss the exit poll projects, called it “gossip”.
“I don’t trust Exit Poll gossip. The game plan is to manipulate or replace thousands of EVMs through this gossip. I appeal to all Opposition parties to be united, strong and bold. We will fight this battle together,” Banerjee had tweeted.