Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu is pouring in all efforts to cobble together an alliance against Prime Minister Narendra Modi after May 23 like he did to thwart the ambitions of Atal Behari Vajpayee after the 1996 election. Over the weekend, Naidu met Congress chief Rahul Gandhi, SP leader Akhilesh Yadav and BSP supremo Mayawati. On Monday, Naidu is reaching Kolkata to meet West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The purpose of the meeting is to insist that all parties opposed to the BJP attend the opposition meeting planned for May 23. Banerjee, it seems, has not given a commitment to attend the opposition meeting, scheduled to be held in Delhi on that day.
While exit polls have indicated the BJP-led NDA would return to power, Naidu does not believe in the numbers given by different agencies. He believes some stunning results might be thrown up at the end on counting day and the result would be a photo-finish, as sources in the opposition claimed.
"In that case, the opposition parties should not delay in coming to any conclusion to decide the leader of their coalition. That would compel the president of India not to undermine the coalition," said a senior AICC member.
While senior Congress leaders believe that in any scenario of a hung verdict, it would be the Congress that would come up as the single-largest party in the opposition alliance and, therefore, the onus of leading the coalition would fall on it. However, Mayawati and Banerjee have different aspirations.
The scathing attack of Akhilesh Yadav against the Congress in the run-up to the Lok Sabha campaign and his subsequent statements that Uttar Pradesh would give the next prime minister made Mayawati believe that she would win the race, thanks to Yadav's support.
Banerjee, on the other hand, would like to believe that she would be the real winner in case the BJP only gets four to five seats in West Bengal. So, the PM's post should go to her, is Banerjee's belief.
The Trinamool Congress made a massive campaign in West Bengal during the Lok Sabha polls in favour of Banerjee's candidature as the first "Bengali prime minister" the country is going to get. So, Banerjee would like to see the Congress support a coalition led by her to checkmate the BJP.
"The Congress should understand that, in all probability, if BJP falls short of a majority, it would be because of regional parties not because of the Congress. There is no sign of Congress revival in India. So, the Congress should support our leader," said a senior TMC leader.
However, the fact of the matter is that Gandhi has already received support from leaders like M.K. Stalin of the DMK, the Abdullahs of the National Conference, Tejashwi Yadav of the RJD and even the Left, which would not like to support Banerjee.
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Therefore, Naidu has his task cut out. Naidu is scheduled to meet Banerjee at 4.30pm on Monday and would try to convince her to come to Delhi for the opposition meet. If Banerjee attends the meet on May 23, she would have to accept the decision of the majority of opposition parties. That's the reason she would not like to attend the meeting and rather would like to watch from a distance.
Sources said Banerjee would wait till the final result and then would like the leaders of opposition parties to extend support to her to become prime minister. Will Naidu be able to change her ambition?