New Delhi: Anticipating a better-than-expected performance of the political formation led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), opposing parties, including the Left, are more conciliatory and keeping all options open, including the formation of a Congress-led minority government.
The latter is the only way the Left can preserve the Third Front and prevent the BJP from poaching them to enhance its own numbers and its chances of forming the next government.
This emerged a day after exit polls showed that the race was too close to call, with the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) barely ahead of its rival grouping led by the BJP. As a result, there were across the board consultations between various political parties in preparation of the counting of votes on 16 May.
Though Congress leaders officially ruled out the possibility of forming a minority government, they privately admit that it is one of the options.
It opened communication with prospective allies, with party president Sonia Gandhi personally leading the initiative to reach out to estranged allies—Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan of Lok Janashakti Party (LJP). Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh spoke to Amar Singh, general secretary of Samajwadi Party (SP). Gandhi also had a discussion with Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar.
“As far as we are concerned, there are two parties which are communal, BJP and Shiv Sena,” Digvijay Singh said when asked about the parties with which Congress was proposing political cooperation. On the possibility of the Congress approaching the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), currently an ally of the Left parties, Singh was noncommittal, saying: “AIADMK is not a communal party”. At present, the Congress is allied with the AIADMK’s main political rival, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK).
A senior leader of a Left party, who didn’t want to be identified, admitted that the Left parties have been galvanized on the fear that the BJP-led alliance could do better than what was initially anticipated. At the same time, given the falling out over the Indo-US nuclear deal, the Left parties are also not comfortable in supporting a Congress-led government.
“Left parties will not allow BJP to take advantage of the situation,” Communist Party of India national secretary D. Raja said, adding, “It is not possible for us to support a Congress-led government also.”
Senior Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders admit that a decision to support a Congress-led government would break the Third Front as its partners such as the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) have expressed their unwillingness to back such a move. The Congress is the main rival for the TDP in Andhra Pradesh and the BJD in Orissa—two states that will elect new governments on 16 May.
Therefore, one of the options being considered is the idea of the Third Front sitting in the opposition and allowing a Congress-led alliance to form a minority government.
That means, when there is a vote in the Lok Sabha, whether it is on a trust or no-trust motion or any important legislation, the Third Front would abstain.
According to constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap, a government can survive without the support of 273 members, the halfway mark in the 543-member lower House, as long as the majority does not vote against it.
The Congress, under the leadership of Narasimha Rao, had formed a minority government in 1991.
Meanwhile, the BJP continued to hold out hope and made a determined effort to reach out to the AIADMK leader J. Jayalalithaa.
“Madam (Jayalalithaa) is coming to Delhi. She will take a decision after seeing the results on 16 May,” V. Maitreyan, a party leader said.
BJP spokesman Ravi Shanker Prasad claimed that the BJP would emerge as the single largest party and would be the largest and the only “credible” pre-poll alliance.
Santosh K. Joy contributed to this story.