M A I N   N E W S

Congress, BJP search for friends, plot for power
Faraz Ahmad and Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 14
Even before the results for the 15th Lok Sabha elections are out, major power players have begun jockeying, strategising and looking for friends across the fence to get the magic number of 272.

Both Congress and the BJP have more or less reconciled to the exit poll projections predicting that neither of them is anywhere near the halfway mark and falling considerably short of the majority even with their alliance partners. Both have started making discreet moves to rope in the usual and not so usual hopefuls.

In this background, BJP’s prime ministerial candidate LK Advani and Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi held a strategy session here today attended among others by his Tamil Nadu troubleshooter S Gurumurthy and business magnate Piyush Goyal.

Apart from them, president Rajnath Singh, Balbir Punj, Sudheendra Kulkarni and spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad were also there.

BJP sources indicated that Gurumurthy has been activiated to open dialogue with Jayalalitha. Much will, however, depend on the final tally in Tamil Nadu, party sources said. They realise that if the DMK were to do very badly the Congress may have no qualms dumping the DMK and embracing Jayalalitha. Significantly for all the bravado, the party is keeping all its options open for forming the government even contemplating an alternate to Advani for the Prime Minister’s post.

For the time being, it is hoping that “secular” compulsion would eventually bring the Left and Congress together. Once that happens, Mamata Banerjee will walk over to the opposite NDA camp, swelling its numbers.

Similarly, the BJP is keeping its fingers crossed on Mayawati factor. “If we do very well in Uttar Pradesh, it may be difficult for us to go with Mayawati. But then let us wait for the results,” said a BJP leader.

As far as the TDP and the BJD are concerned, the party is again hoping that once the Left starts moving towards the Congress, the two prodigal sons of NDA - Naveen Patnaik and N Chandababu Naidu - would be forced to return to the NDA-fold.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and her “boys” have got into an overdrive smoothening feathers of its UPA partners and the Left whom they rubbed the wrong way during the polls. Sonia’ s residence was the centre of political activity here today, with a high-level meeting discussing various formulations.

Already, Sonia has spoken to RJD chief Lalu Prasad and Sharad Pawar on the phone.

Today Pawar called on Sonia and held consultations. Yesterday she utilised the accidental fire at LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan’s house to resume her social relations with him.

Simultaneously, AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh mended fences with SP general secretary Amar Singh by calling him up on the phone.

Meanwhile, Fourth Front leaders met here today at Paswan’s house. While Lalu is away in Patna, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh drove to 12, Janpath.

They, however, restricted their comment on government formation to saying this was just a strategy session.

But they insisted that their alliance was not restricted to the polls and will continue hereafter too, implying that they may collectively bargain for portfolios when the time comes for sharing power.

The Congress, too, has started looking beyond at regional parties like Telugu cine star Chiranjeevi’s Praja Rajyam Party. Sonia Gandhi has already held discussions with the former Karnataka Chief Minister. Besides, the party is working out how to extend its hand of friendship to Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patniak and UP CM Mayawati.



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