M A I N   N E W S

Voting ends on a high note
62 pc polling in last phase
l 2 killed in WB l Scramble for allies on
Ashok Tuteja & Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 13
Curtain rang down on the massive exercise of voting in the Lok Sabha elections today with nearly 62 per cent of electorate casting ballots in the fifth and final phase. Polling was largely peaceful, barring stray incidents in West Bengal in which two people were killed.

As the one-month long polling process concluded this evening, the war of nerves has begun with political parties anxiously waiting for the D-Day-May 16 when votes will be counted.

The flurry of post-poll political activity on Wednesday saw the top leadership of the BJP and the Congress holding closed-door meetings to assess their gains and losses and chart the future course of action and the CPM declaring a meeting of Left leaders and the BSP on May 18 to discuss the possibility of forming an alternative government.

The Congress, the BJP and the Left have all expressed the confidence that they would sweep the polls and form the next government at the Centre.

While the Congress top brass met at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Race Course residence, the Opposition BJP had prime ministerial candidate L.K Advani and president Rajnath Singh exchanging notes on the prospects of NDA taking a shot at government formation at Advani’s residence.

The BJP meeting was attended by party’s core think tank, including Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Venkaiah Naidu as also the most sought after JD(U) leader Nitish Kumar. The Prime Minister’s meeting, attended by senior Congress leaders, including A.K. Antony, Pranab Mukherjee and Ahmed Patel, was followed by a “Thank You” dinner for all those involved in planning and execution of Congress’ poll plan in the party’s war room at Rakabganj Road.

Encouraged by exit polls projecting the UPA having an edge over the NDA, Congress leaders, expressed optimism about retaining power. While it is an open secret that different regional parties are being approached, officially the party’s line continued to be that any such talks will be held after May 16. In response to questions on the Congress holding discussions with regional parties, including the JD(S), Congress spokesman Mohan Prakash said all talks, if needed, will be held after May 16 when election results are announced.

JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy had met Congress leader Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday, sparking speculations of the party breaking away from the Third Front and joining the UPA. The BJP too expressed confidence that the NDA will sweep the elections and form the next government at the centre. “I am fully confident that the BJP-led government will be formed at the centre. BJP will emerge as the single largest party and NDA as the largest alliance. We will get new partners (after the polls),” said BJP president Rajnath Singh.

CPM general secretary Prakash Karat said that leaders of the Left and the BSP would meet on May 18 to discuss the possibility of forming an alternative secular government. Outlining the Third Front plans, Karat said the Left parties will meet in New Delhi on May 17 which will be followed by the CPM’s Politburo meeting on May 18 and Central Committee the following day. “This will be the first round of meeting among the parties,” he said.

Asked whether TRS has been invited to the meeting, Karat said: “TRS is not in this. He (K Chandrasekhar Rao) has obviously found some other place”. On reports about BJP sending feelers to the TDP, Karat said he was in touch with TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu. “In fact, it was he (Naidu) who asked me to make this announcement,” he asserted. The Third Front is roping in the BSP for talks on May 18 to explore a non-Congress, non-BJP alternative.

Meanwhile, Paswan, who is in a pre-poll alliance with RJD leader Lalu Prasad in Bihar, said that Congress President Sonia Gandhi had called him up to inquire about the incident and his well being. She rang up UPA’s estranged ally to express her concern after a fire broke out at the LJP leader’s official residence. Paswan is a minister in the UPA government but during the poll campaign, he and Lalu Prasad traded active barbs with the Congress.

Meanwhile, much is being read into the Ambani brothers meeting with senior leaders in the Capital. The two brothers today moved in political circles on the last day of elections, meeting senior leaders from parties that were either part of or supported the UPA government. Apparently Anil Ambani called on Manmohan Singh at his residence after meeting SP General Secretary Amar Singh and his elder brother Mukesh is believed to have met senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel. Mukesh is also understood to have called on senior RJD leader and Corporate Affairs Minister Prem Chand Gupta. However, details of the meetings could not be obtained.



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