Campaigning in the bitterly-fought high-stakes Lok Sabha elections came to an end with the BJP claiming that it will get more than 300 seats and ensure return of Narendra Modi as Prime Minister, while Congress president Rahul Gandhi refused to hazard a guess on the numbers the opposition will get and on who could be the prime minister if the incumbent is defeated.
As the campaign in 59 constituencies spread over six states and one union territory on May 19 came to a close, BJP president Amit Shah and Gandhi held press conferences at their party headquarters about how electioneering went in the last two months.
"We will get more than 300 seats along with our pre-poll allies. We will have the government. It'll be a coalition government," Shah said at the press conference also attended by Prime Minister Modi. He also did not rule out new allies coming into NDA after the poll results. "We are open to having anybody who will accept our agenda," he said.
At his press conference, Gandhi said a decision on the prime ministerial post of a non-BJP government at the Centre would be taken after the Lok Sabha poll results are out on May 23.
"People will deliver their mandate on May 23. I will not comment on it before their decision is out. I do not want to prejudge the judgement of Indian people. We will take the decision on the basis of what people decide," Gandhi said.
While campaigning in five states and Chandigarh ended on Friday, it came to a close in West Bengal on Thursday night after the Election Commission cut short electioneering by a day in the wake of violence during Shah's road show on Tuesday.
The seventh and final phase on May 19 will cover 13 seats in Uttar Pradesh; all 13 in Punjab, nine in West Bengal, eight each in Bihar and Madhya Pradesh, all four constituencies in Himachal Pradesh, three in Jharkhand and the lone seat of Chandigarh. A total of 918 candidates are in the fray to test their destiny in the last phase.
Those whose fortunes will be decided in the final phase are Modi in Varanasi, former Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal (Ferozepur), his wife and union minister Harsimrat Kaur (Bhatinda), another union minister Hardeep Puri (Amritsar) and Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh's wife Praneet Kaur in (Patiala) (all in Punjab), three-time MP Anurag Thakur in Himachal Pradesh's Hamirpur, former Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren (Dumka) and former union minister P K Bansal, who faces sitting MP Kirron Kher in Chandigarh.
Winding up the gruelling campaign that lasted over 50 days, Modi addressed a meeting in Khargaon in Madhya Pradesh, claiming that the BJP and the NDA would return to power with more than 300 seats.
But opposition leaders predicted a rout for the BJP saying Modi would be shown the door. However, they were not sure who would be their prime minister.
"I am not in the race for running a government. I will be steering the nation," Modi said in an interview before close of campaigning which witnessed highly personal attacks by leaders against each other. Modi had termed former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi as "corrupt no 1" while Rahul Gandhi kept chanting the slogan of "chowkidar chor hai" in reference to Modi
BSP Chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav came together to form a mahagathbandan (grand alliance) to take on the BJP juggernaut in Uttar Pradesh and held rallies in all regions of the politically-crucial Uttar Pradesh which has 80 seats in Lok Sabha.
Other regional parties tied up among themselves against BJP and NDA in several states.
Modi, who is contesting from Varanasi, did not go for campaigning to his constituency Varanasi where he did a massive road ahead of filing of nominations. Congress leader Ajay Rai, who lost to Modi in the last elections, will again face the prime minister while SP has fielded Shalini Yadav.
Results will be announced on May 23.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)