Lok Sabha polls 2019: Picking up on post-poll alliance chatter

Opposition parties on Friday stepped up efforts to forge an anti-BJP front with TDP chief and Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu travelling across the country to shore up support in the event of a hung Parliament after May 19, which marks the last phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections.

Naidu, who has been spearheading Opposition’s unity efforts, met AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury a week after he met Congress president Rahul Gandhi and announced their joint decision to approach President Ramnath Kovind after the results on May 23 and stake a claim in forming a coalition government.

Get your act together: Naidu

As post-election alliance talks gathered pace, Naidu met Rahul again on Saturday, a day after campaigning closed, at the latter’s residence in New Delhi.

According to Hindustan Times, he also met Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Communist Party of India’s G Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja, and Loktantrik Janata Dal founder Sharad Yadav in the national capital.

Naidu held separate discussions with Raja and other senior opposition leaders for discussing post-May 23 alliance possibilities.

“Naidu reportedly told all the leaders that we should unite and get our act together,” a person familiar with the discussions told PTI. Naidu told Rahul to have a strategy in place to move quickly and stake his claim for forming the next government if the NDA were to fall short of a majority in the Lok Sabha, PTI reported Saturday.

He then flew to Lucknow to have a round of discussions with BSP and SP chiefs Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, who are fighting the polls together so as not to split the anti-BJP vote. Refusing to divulge details of the four-hour meeting with Yadav, Naidu said things will be notified at an appropriate time.

An anonymous source, however, said neither parties are likely to enter a formal arrangement without having a meeting between themselves first after the results are announced.

More endorsements from the south add heft

Besides, no clarity has yet been offered on whom this allied opposition will field as its prime ministerial candidate.

Nonetheless, on the very same day, two other regional leaders, namely, former prime minister and JD(S) leader H D Deve Gowda and DMK chief M K Stalin, said they would back a Rahul Gandhi-led formation. Both parties are in a pre-poll alliance with the Congress in their respective states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, with the Congress-JD(S) combine in Bengaluru exemplifying a winning post-poll formula in the upcoming race.

That aside, Gowda and Stalin’s endorsements will play a crucial role in the tussle for the central seat among allied parties, if things go according to plan.

Naidu to KCR: Door is open

Naidu also notably announced that Telangana’s ruling party TRS, whose leader K Chandrashekhar Rao has been hinting at forming an anti-NDA federal front without the Congress, will also be welcomed with open arms into the developing post-poll gathbandhan.

“We welcome not only the TRS but any party that is against the BJP. We welcome all such parties to be a part of our grand alliance,” Naidu told reporters, when asked whether a Congress-led grand alliance will join hands with TRS’s KCR, who is Naidu’s bitter political rival.

In a significant development, TRS spokesperson Abid Rasool Khan released a statement on Friday saying that his party is ready to do business with the Rahul Gandhi-led outfit, in case the front falls short of numbers to form the government. Khan suggested TRS may explore the option of supporting it from outside, according to a News18 report.

Need to move fast

Naidu is reportedly also in touch with West Bengal CM and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee over the telephone. In a bid to consolidate the anti-BJP front, the Congress has apparently buried the hatchet and defended Trinamool, after BJP workers unleashed violence and vandalism in Kolkata during Amit Shah’s rally earlier this week.

With most exit polls predicting that neither national party will secure a clear majority, it will come down to regional parties like BSP or TMC, and interlocutors like Naidu, to make or break a coalition.

The Andhra CM, an estranged ally of the NDA, quit the race to carve an anti-BJP coalition and has since emerged as the most important common denominator among a bevy of political parties with diverse ideologies, vested interests, and leaders at loggerheads with one another, despite being united in their strident opposition to the BJP.

Harkening back to the landmark meeting convened by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi last year, another meeting may take place on May 21 at her behest and Naidu’s invitation.

Many of these leaders are expected to attend and make an appearance of coming together to defeat the saffron wave one last time.

What’s BJP up to?

As opposition leaders moved on Saturday to try and stitch up an alternative to the BJP-led NDA, the ruling party has also been playing toe-to-toe, with less than a week to go before the declaration of the election results.

BJP has been actively shoring up support in case a landslide victory eludes Shah’s party this time. Poll analysts are not ruling out a possible post-poll alliance between the saffron party and Mayawati-led BSP in Uttar Pradesh, Business Standard reported earlier this week; this would throw all vote-share arithmetic for the gathbandhan into disarray.

On Friday, Rahul, however, voiced confidence that a secular formation will win the most seats in this Lok Sabha election and that regional parties wouldn’t back the BJP. “I don’t see Mayawati ji, [SP patron] Mulayam Singh Yadav ji, Mamata ji, Chandrababu Naidu ji, supporting the BJP and Narendra Modi government,” Rahul said.

Meanwhile, the Naga People’s Front on Saturday decided to withdraw support from the BJP-led Manipur government after the conclusion of the Lok Sabha polls. Former CM T R Zeliang tweeted,”This decision at this juncture is necessitated due to the indifferent attitude of the BJP towards us [NPF]”, both in Manipur and Nagaland.

Prarthana Mitra is a Staff Writer at Qrius

2019 Indian general electionsChandrababu Naidu