NEW DELHI: Polling in the last two phases of the general elections - 118 constituencies in 15 states and UTs - is yet to happen but murmurs of post-poll alliances are already in the air.
Though Congress is keeping its cards close to its chest and maintaining that everything would depend on the final arithmetic on May 23, regional players have already started hobnobbing to ensure the grand old party doesn’t become a dominant partner after the verdict is out.
Telangana Chief Minister and Telangana Rashtra Samithi founder K Chandrashekar Rao set the ball rolling in the South by meeting his Kerala counterpart Pinarayi Vijayan. He also reached out to Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy and DMK chief M K Stalin - both allies of the Congress. In March this year, Rao had met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well to form a non-Congress and non-BJP led federal government at the Centre.
His is not the only outreach for alliance formation. CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury met senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel last week. And Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu met Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday. Naidu is also campaigning in West Bengal for the TMC.
Officially, Congress leaders say everything will depend on the post-poll numbers but privately they admit they have learnt from past fiascos, so all options are on the table. For instance, similar to its Karnataka experience where it acted swiftly to support the JD(S) after the Assembly results this year, the Congress will be prepared to move quickly on new alliances and has already started ascertaining different post-poll scenarios.
“There are over 100 seats where elections are yet to be held and alliances will depend once we have the numbers,” said a top party functionary, adding that an assessment has been done on all possible scenarios that could emerge after the results are out. The Congress failed to form governments in Goa, Manipur and Meghalaya despite bagging the highest number of seats in the Assembly elections there.
As for KCR, he is trying to send feelers to the Congress for a post-poll alliance, but GOP sources cite the issue of trust deficit against him.
“TRS had backstabbed us and the party will be cautious in dealing with him or reacting to his outreach. But in politics everything is possible,” said a Congress leader. The TRS was part of the UPA-1 but left on the issue of a separate state.
In West Bengal, Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee had initially batted for having for a pre-poll alliance so that the opposition can stake claim for government formation post results. However, the alliance didn’t work out. In UP, the Congress was kept out of the SP-BSP alliance.
But during the past one month, the Congress has given enough indications of aligning with them once results are out. It has been reciprocated by BSP chief Mayawati and SP chief Akhilesh Yadav, who issued a missive to their supporters to vote for Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
The opposition is scheduled to meet now on May 21 to iron out differences and discuss possible scenarios. “The idea is to hold the meeting after the exit polls is out. Though no exit poll in 2014 could correctly come up with exact numbers, they will give some idea,” said an opposition leader.
Political experts say the UPA in 2004 and the United Front in 1996 were post-poll alliances. “The regional players discussing alliances should be to ensure the Congress is not the sole partner to dictate terms. Regional players will play key roles in government formation,” said Aditya Nigam, fellow, Centre for the Study of Developing Societies.