Know where Mintokang is? Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan does--now. It is in Gangtok and that's where he had to travel to have dinner with Sikkim Chief Minister PK Chamling to assure him of the support of the Bharatiya Janata Party, should he need it to form the government in Sikkim, which had elections to the Assembly along with the Lok Sabha. In return, would the Sikkim Democratic Front ,of which Chamling is the leader consider supporting the BJP in the Lok Sabha if it wins the lone Sikkim seat?
That is the extent to which the BJP is going to get the support of a political party that represents just one vote. Following an election that politicians of all hues say, in a chorus, will yield a hung house, they are quick to add: "Every seat counts".
The race to win friends and influence people has begun as the countdown to the results on May 16 begins. Senior Congress leaders met at the residence of party president Sonia Gandhi to discuss their strategy for possible post-poll alliances. Gandhi is seeking the opinion of the 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. Party president Rajnath Singh and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who flew in this morning, were present at the meeting. Also present were S Gurumurthy of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, Advani's associate Sudheendra Kulkarni, spokespersons Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javdekar and Balbir Punj, and Piyush Goyal, a businessman close to the party. Modi told reporters before the meeting, "I am here to take part in the post-poll political process. What is there to hide?"
But Mulayam Singh Yadav, chief of the Samajwadi Party, vouchsafed nothing, keeping all options open. "I will not say anything till May 16. I will not meet or talk to anybody before the announcement of the results," Yadav told reporters. The normally voluble Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad also spoke in the same vein.
However, the third member of the fourth front, Lok Janashakti Party chief Ram Vilas Paswan said his party would not be averse to supporting any alternative secular government if the United Progressive Alliance failed to get the numbers, but the final decision would be taken collectively by the Front.
Janata Dal-United leaders were talking to the Biju Janata Dal and the Telugu Desam party--both constituents of the Third Front, which has been given a little over 100 seats in the exit polls.
The most relaxed about government formation was the Left which will hold the first meeting of the Third Front--parties that are non-BJP and non-Congress --only on 18 May.
Communist Party of India leader D Raja said, "We are confident that the Left parties will play an important role along with its allies in government formation."
Nationalist Congress Party leader P A Sangma is understood to have promised support to the BJP-led alliance when he met Yadav on May 12.
Sangma had blamed Congress for bringing down the Meghalaya Progressive Alliance government in Meghalaya, of which NCP was an important component.
Interestingly, Congress leader Digvijay Singh, who had earlier said that if the UPA was unable to form a Congress-led government, the party would consider sitting in the Opposition rather than supporting another party, said on Thursday that this course of action was tried by Rajiv Gandhi "when the circumstances were different".
When asked whom the Congress thought was communal, Singh said, "Only the BJP and Shiv Sena are communal. We won't have anything to do with these parties which spread hate and communalism." Asked whether Congress would seek an alliance with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, he merely said "AIADMK is not a communal party."