Facing the prospect of a hung Parliament as predicted by the exit polls, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday discussed strategies to shore up their numbers for government formation as the countdown began for the May 16 results.
Senior Congress leaders met at the residence of president Sonia Gandhi to discuss their strategy for possible post poll alliances. Gandhi is seeking the opinion of state leaders and also the party general secretaries.
The BJP held its strategy session in the morning at the residence of its prime ministerial candidate L K Advani to discuss post poll alliances.
Party president Rajnath Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, arrived in New Delhi today morning, were present at the meeting. Modi is likely to be deputed by the BJP to rope in All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief Jayalalithaa into the National Democratic Alliance fold.
Modi told reporters before the meeting, "I am here to take part in the post-poll political process. What is there to hide?"
In the exit polls, the ruling United Progressive Alliance appears to have emerged as the single largest grouping and it is projected to get between 190 to 205 seats with the National Democratic Alliance not far behind with 185 to 196 seats in the 543-member House, opening up the possibility of a key role for small parties in government formation. Projecting a highly-fractured verdict, the surveys have placed the Third Front at a little over 100 seats.
Leaders of both the Congress and the BJP were optimistic of doing much better than the exit poll predictions but were unwilling to spell out how they hope to reach the magic figure of 272 required for a majority in the Lok Sabha. Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan said her party did not rely on exit polls and expressed confidence that the Congress will lead the UPA government post May 16.
Asked whether the Congress will seek the Left's support, she said, "Any decision will be taken by the party and the leadership only after the votes are counted and a full picture emerges".
BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar, however, discounted the Left supporting a Congress-led government, saying he did not see a major role for the Left in government formation.
"Left is saying no BJP, no Congress. Let them pursue the line," he said, dismissing suggestions that the Left Front would be kingmakers.
"The Left parties will meet on May 18 and will have proper consultations with its allies. We will assess the situation and formulate our position. We are confident that the Left parties will play an important role along with its allies in government formation," he said.