Even as exit polls at the end of the 17th general election on Sunday pointed to a clear edge for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), a section of the Opposition was planning to launch a pre-emptive strike by submitting a list of parties committed to an alternative government to the President before May 23, when the results will be declared.
Opposition leaders said Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu had taken the initiative to submit such a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind. The move is aimed at improving the chances of an Opposition coalition being invited to form the next government by the President in case a hung Parliament emerges from the seven-phase election.
Naidu told opposition leaders that if there was no such prior intimation to the President, the BJP and its pre-poll partners in the NDA would have a clear edge in getting the first chance to form government and proving a majority in the House.
“His calculation is that the BJP will end up getting less than 200 seats and if that happens, the gap between the NDA and the other side would not be wide. But if the letter of intent with signature of all willing parties are not given to the President, the scattered Opposition is no match against the NDA,” a senior Opposition leader said on condition of anonymity.
According to the Sarkaria Commission report, if a leader has to be selected from among a group of parties, in the order of preference, “an alliance of parties that was formed prior to the Elections” comes first.
The Punchhi Commission guidelines also said: The party or combination of parties which commands the widest support in the Legislative Assembly should be called upon to form the Government. If there is a pre-poll alliance or coalition, it should be treated as one political party and if such coalition obtains a majority, the leader of such coalition shall be called [to form government].”
Naidu met Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati before holding a meeting with Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury in New Delhi on Sunday.
The Left is not keen on the course of action suggested by Naidu. A senior Left leader said, “We don’t need to go to the President till the results are actually out. 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.”
The Congress and some other parties had been keen on drafting a pre-poll Common Minimum Programme (CMP) to showcase the strength of the anti-NDA camp in the run-up to the Lok Sabha election. That initiative didn’t go beyond preliminary discussions.
During the day, Naidu held a second round of talks with Congress president Rahul Gandhi to discuss the outcome of his meetings with Mayawati and Yadav in Lucknow on Saturday. Naidu also met United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) chief Sharad Pawar. He also met the Congress’s Sam Pitroda.
During the meetings, the opposition leaders discussed the strategy to be adopted after the results are declared on May 23.
Soon after his meeting with Naidu, Pawar said they had assessed the likely election outcome in their respective states.. “We assessed the elections in our respective states. We are waiting for counting day to take further steps,” he said. About the possibility of a meeting of the combined Opposition, he said it will take place only after May 23.