The Telegraph
Thursday , May 15 , 2014
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Congress pins hope on fractured verdict

New Delhi, May 14: The Congress appears demoralised by the exit poll predictions and the general air of certainty that a Narendra Modi-led regime would kick in, but it still believes its internal assessment that the BJP would fall short of the magic figure.

After analysing feedback from states, key strategists today indicated the Congress would scale the 100-mark and the nature of the verdict would be different from the sensational victory being predicted for the BJP.

“The fractured mandate would make a stable government very difficult,” a senior leader said, hoping there would be enough space for a possible third front.

Sources revealed Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was in constant touch with Trinamul’s Mamata Banerjee and BSP’s Mayawati to ensure they don’t tilt to Modi. Key strategists are also in touch with Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav and Biju Janata Dal’s Naveen Patnaik.

Officially, the party maintained coalition talks had not begun and the leadership was waiting for the results. But sources hinted that behind-the-scenes negotiations were under way at different levels.

The efforts started when the Congress’s calculations indicated the BJP would require the support of some of these parties as well as Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress and K. Chandrashekhar Rao’s Telangana Rashtra Samiti.

A top Congress leader said: “Yes, our leaders were in touch with some of these leaders during the campaign. Didn’t you see both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi were soft on Mamata, Mayawati, Mulayam and targeted the BJP instead?

“Even if they criticised Mamata under pressure from the state leadership, they tried to sweeten the pill. Rahul publicly talked of Mamata having a large heart and said he respected her. Sonia was even softer on Trinamul.”

The Congress sees Jayalalithaa in the suspect category and feels Jagan and Chandrashekhar Rao will join the NDA only if Modi forms the government. Some leaders from the Left and Janata Dal (U) are also in touch with the Congress strategists. The TRS and YSR Congress may have to do business with the Congress in case of hung Houses in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh. This will curtail Modi’s manoeuvring capacity in these states.

Naveen is another big player that Modi would like to woo but the Congress has moved swiftly to raise hurdles. Party spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said: “The BJP has demanded that Odisha be included in the Saradha scam probe by the CBI. This means Patnaik has spurned them.”

But the BJD sent out conflicting signals, creating a perception that its support to the NDA could not be ruled out.