Indian political parties were today focusing their attentions on their post-election strategies ahead of the results being announced over the weekend.
Analysts have widely forecast a hung parliament with neither the ruling Congress Party nor the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) gaining a clear majority.
Parties are now discussing ways to woo new allies and bring estranged partners back into the fold.
Throughout the elections, the Left parties have declared they wish to build a “non-Congress, non-BJP” alliance at the centre after a fall-out last year with the current Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) over the nuclear deal between India and the US.
Today they were holding discussions ahead of the count. The Communist Party of India – Marxist (CPI-M) general secretary Prakash Karat has repeatedly stated that they would not back either the Congress or the BJP.
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi flew to New Delhi today to show his support for his party (BJP). Top politicians of the party met at the residence of L K Advani, who is being projected as their prime ministerial candidate.
The meeting was followed by talks with smaller groups that are predicted to play important roles in the formation of the government.
Mr Modi said: “We are here for political reasons and to discuss the post-poll scenario. It is no secret.”
Regional parties including the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal command large vote banks in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
BSP leader Mayawati and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav have both projected themselves as prime ministerial candidates.
Leaders of parties holding sway over crucial vote banks in south India, including M Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, are expected to be courted to make up the numbers in parliament.
The Congress Party members were meeting at party president Sonia Gandhi’s residence today.
A party worker said: “We will take stock of where we have done well and also chart out a future course once the results are out on Saturday.”
SP chief Mr Singh also said they were discussing strategies. “We will sit together, talk and discuss everything. Our future course of action will be decided only after May 16.”
Meanwhile, most parties have dismissed exit polls with both Congress and BJP saying they would get a clear majority.
Television channels yesterday predicted that the UPA would finish only marginally ahead of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA).
The “Third Front” formed by the communists and other regional parties will reportedly get just 100 seats in the parliament.
Indian newspaper the Times of India forecasts 195 seats won by the Congress while the BJP is touted to hold 187. Regional parties and independent candidates will get 111 and 50 seats respectively, it was predicted.
Congress spokesman Rajiv Shukla said they did not agree with any of the exit poll predictions.
“If you have any doubts about the UPA forming the government once again, wait until 3pm on May 16,” he said.
“Even if the UPA does not get 272 seats (for a majority), it will be in a position to attract more allies to complete the tally and form the government.”
The BJP held an exit poll of its own and placed itself ahead of the Congress, confident of the NDA ruling in the parliament.
Party president Rajnath Singh said: “The BJP will emerge the single-largest party and the NDA the largest alliance. We will get new partners after the polls.”
There has been some scepticism over exit polls after they showed the NDA winning quite comfortably in 2004, when in fact the UPA emerged a winner.
Counting of votes will begin early on Saturday morning and the final tally will be released later the same day or early on Sunday.
About 714 million voters were eligible to take part in the mammoth polls which were staggered over a month for logistical and security reasons.
According to the constitution, new parliament must be in place by June 2.