Hunt for numbers: PM calls Nitish, BJP woos Naidu, Left waits (Roundup)

May 12th, 2009 - 8:17 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan Singh New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) With barely four days left for judgment day, both the BJP and the Congress Tuesday stepped up their hunt for post-poll allies to shore up the numbers in what is widely expected to be a hung parliament.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rang up Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, to discuss Kosi flood relief and “other issues”, and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader M. Venkaiah Naidu flew to Hyderabad to woo Telugu Desam Party (TDP) chief Chandrababu Naidu.

The prime minister’s call to Nitish Kumar took many by surprise as it came only a day after Manmohan Singh had cast doubts about secular credentials of the Bihar leader who shared the stage with NDA leaders, including Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, at a show of strength rally in Ludhiana Sunday.

“The prime minister rang up Nitish Kumar on the Kosi flood relief. I don’t know more details,” Deepak Sandhu, media adviser to the prime minister, told IANS.

But aides to Nitish Kumar indicated that “other issues”, which they did not elaborate, were also discussed at what was a “lengthy conversation”.

With the post-poll scenario on mind, the BJP also pitched hard to win support of influential regional parties to bolster its claim of forming the next government. M. Venkaiah Naidu arrived in Hyderabad Tuesday in an apparent attempt to woo Chandrababu Naidu. The BJP leader, however, refused to name any party or leader with whom he will be holding negotiations.

“Any party which is willing to support (BJP leader L.K.) Advaniji, which is ready to support the NDA, is welcome. There are a number of people inclined towards us but we do not want to name any party or any leader at the moment. We will wait till the time the elections are over and counting is over on (May) 16th,” Naidu said.

The Communists, who are pushing for a non-Congress, non-BJP Third Front government, kept alive the suspense about which way they will go. Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury clarified that the party politburo will decide on the issue only after the results are declared May 16.

“Decisions are not taken by an individual,” Yechury said in New Delhi when asked to comment on West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s remarks Monday that the Congress was not untouchable. “What Buddha meant (was) that the politburo will decide after May 16,” he explained.

He also endorsed Bhattacharjee’s clarifications of CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat’s remarks ruling out support to the Congress was only a “pre-poll position”.

The TDP leader also plugged for a Third Front government. Predicting that the Congress and the BJP would fail to get a majority, Naidu claimed that the wind was blowing in favour of regional parties like AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the BSP in Uttar Pradesh. Naidu said he would be meeting leaders of the two parties as well as the Left and other Third Front leaders after May 16.

He was confident that the “Mahakutami”, or the TDP-led grand alliance, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M,) would come to power in the state.

Naidu has maintained a “no comment” stance over the TRS declaring its support for the BJP-led NDA at the centre.

Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, however, sought to muddy the picture as he accused the Congress of being “in touch” with Mayawati, seen as a possible prime ministerial candidate of the Third Front, through Governor T. V. Rajeshwar. The Congress promptly rejected the charge.

Amar Singh said the Congress will have to “make the first move” to seek its support for the formation of the UPA government. In the same breath, he added that his party was open to overtures of the Left, provided they were willing to dismiss Bahajan Samaj Party chief and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati’s government.

“I am in constant touch with my friend Sitaram Yechury. But if the Third Front wants us they will have to get rid of the BSP (government),” he said in an interview to CNN-IBN.

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