Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief N Chandrababu Naidu, who in the past few months has emerged a mediator between Opposition parties, on Wednesday met Congress President Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi. He later flew to Kolkata to attend a public meeting alongside Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee on Thursday in Kharagpur.
Naidu, who is also the Andhra Pradesh chief minister, discussed with Gandhi the plans to hold a meeting of Opposition parties on May 21. The parties would be meeting two days before the counting of votes, but 48 hours after the last phase of polling on May 19, and the release of exit polls.
Opposition sources said the idea behind these discussions was to be on the same page on the day of the counting and not waste time in getting opposition parties on the same page if the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance falls way short of the majority mark of 272-seats.
Opposition leaders are keen to follow the Karnataka example where the Congress and Janata Dal (Secular) leaders had already discussed the possibility of their respective roles in a situation of a hung assembly, and did not waste time to declare H D Kumaraswamy as the leader of the coalition when the trends became available on the counting day. A similar consensus would be needed over the leadership and complexion of a government comprising opposition parties.
After meeting Gandhi, Naidu landed in Kolkata. A helicopter ferried him to Trinamool Congress public meetings in Haldia and Jhargram. He shared the stage with Trinamool leaders. On Thursday, Naidu will share the election stage with Banerjee in Kharagpur. Naidu will stay back in Bengal on Friday to address more rallies.
Over the past several months, Naidu and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar have emerged as mediators between various Opposition parties.
The Andhra Pradesh CM was in Delhi to attend the Supreme Court hearing on a petition filed by the Opposition parties to review its judgment rejecting 50 per cent random physical verification of EVMs using VVPATs. The apex court dismissed the petition, following which the parties again met the Election Commission to press for their demand.
Elections are over in Andhra Pradesh, which also witnessed Assembly polls. Elections are also over in Maharashtra, Karnataka and much of rest of India. Leaders like Naidu, Pawar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s M K Stalin have started making their own assessments.
However, Banerjee, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati – key players in the Opposition’s scheme of things – are still busy with elections and these leaders are trying to reach out to them to discuss the various possibilities emerging on the counting day.