Suspense mounted on who will form the next government on Friday as both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party worked overtime to cobble up an alliance to reach the magic figure of 272.
"Everything is fluid," said Nationalist Congress Party leader Praful Patel as political leaders confabulated with one-time allies, friends and foes, hoping to bring them on to their side.
Congress leaders Pranab Mukherjee, A K Antony, Ahmad Patel and Digvijay Singh were huddled in talks till late on Thursday night. Given his good equation with Communist Party of India - Marxist veterans Jyoti Basu and West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, Mukherjee may be given the task of opening up the lines of communication with Left parties.
A meeting between BJP president Rajnath Singh and Samajwadi Party general secretary Amar Singh at a wedding reception on Thursday night set the political circles abuzz. The SP leader, however, dismissed the media speculation.
In the midst of the hectic parleys, the Congress and the BJP have put up brave fronts, each claiming that it will lead the next government. "People are aware that it is only the Congress which can provide a stable government. All our allies are happy with us," said Congress spokesperson Jayanthi Natarajan.
However, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar expressed confidence that his party will emerge as the single largest one. "The National Democratic Alliance will emerge as the single largest coalition with 50 seats more than the United Progressive Alliance," he claimed.
"All options are open. Everything will depend on the numbers," said Amar Singh. The SP leader said he was in touch with CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury and would be speaking to Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar.
The Fourth Front, comprising Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, Ram Vilas Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party and SP, have said the combine was averse to having any alliance with the BJP as also Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party.
"Everybody is talking to everyone," Patel went on to add.
Janata Dal -United leader Sharad Yadav adopted a cautious approach. "There are some people with whom we are talking with some belief. The talks have been ongoing since Thursday night," he said without elaborating.
Congress continued to woo its one-time allies. "The Congress does not use and throw its allies. We had a difference of opinion with the RJD, LJP and the SP over the number of seats allotted to our party but they continued to be ministers and continue to be part of the UPA," explained Natarajan.
The Left parties firmly ruled out the possibility of any tie-up with the BJP. "We shall prevent the formation of a BJP-led government. This does not mean that automatically there would be blanket support to a government led by the Congress," Communist Party of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta contended.