The INDIA bloc may have decided to wait and watch developments unfolding in the NDA camp and “take appropriate steps at the appropriate time”, but some parties in the Opposition alliance, particularly the TMC and Shiv Sena (UBT), and, to some extent the AAP, are pushing hard for exploring options to shore up the bloc numbers to checkmate the BJP.

Sources said West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC chief Mamata Banerjee spoke to SP’s Akhilesh Yadav on the day of the election results itself, asking him to reach out to both N Chandrababu Naidu of the TDP, his late father Mulayam Singh Yadav’s comrade-in-arms since the United Front days of the mid 1990s, and JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar who too had a good equation. with the SP veteran.

On Thursday, Banerjee’s nephew and TMC senior leader Abhishek Banerjee and party colleague Derek O’Brien, met Yadav in New Delhi as a follow-up meeting.

Sources said the AAP too is of the view that options to bring more parties into the INDIA bloc should be explored. AAP leaders Sanjay Singh and Raghav Chadha also met Banerjee. Separately, the two AAP leaders went to Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut’s residence.

Banerjee and O’Brien then left for Mumbai where they are expected to meet Shiv Sena (UBT) chief Uddhav Thackeray and his son Aaditya.

Festive offer

After meeting the TMC leaders, Yadav said expectations in democracy should always thrive. “Khush karne se sarkarein ban rahi hai. Toh khush koi aur bi kar sakta hai (Governments are being formed by pleasing people, so others can also please). In democracy… when counting is done… hope and expectations should never be over. Hope and expectations should always be there,” he said.

Sources in the SP, however, said Yadav does not expect Naidu or Kumar to change sides too soon but agreed with the TMC leaders that the bloc should keep the BJP on its toes.

The Congress is not in a mood to aggressively scout for numbers since the INDIA bloc is not in a position to stake claim. The Left leaders too believe attempts to cobble together a ragtag coalition to stake claim could be counter-productive at this juncture.

The thinking in the Congress is that the alliance should keep options and doors open for Nitish Kumar and Naidu. “Narendra Modi’s BJP ran the government for 10 years. He and his government have been rejected. That is the starting point. We move forward from here,” a senior TMC leader said.

Sources in the TMC claimed that three newly-elected MPs of the BJP from West Bengal are in touch with Banerjee.

On the other hand, two Independents – Congress rebels Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav who won from Purnia in Bihar, and Vishal Patil who was elected from Sangli in Maharashtra – are ready to support the Congress.

“The starting point is that it is going to be a non-BJP Modi government. After that anything can happen,” a TMC leader said. The party also believes that the Left cannot drive the decisions in the INDIA bloc anymore.

“There are parties like the SP which has 37 seats, TMC which has 29 and Shiv Sena (UBT) which has 9 seats… And we are not photocopies of other parties… We have our views,” a leader said.

The Congress’s decision to move cautiously is interesting given that it is still scarred by the missteps it took in 1999. After the fall of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government by one vote in the summer of 1999, Sonia Gandhi, then a year into the Congress presidency. , famously met the then President KR Narayanan and claimed the support of 272 MPs. She said the Congress was willing to form a government.

Two days later, Sonia met Narayanan again and gave him a list of the names of 233 MPs supporting her and sought more time to finish consultations with friendly parties.

The President told her to complete the consultations as early as possible.

But Gandhi soon had a taste of realpolitik after Mulayam Singh Yadav, the RSP and the Forward Bloc declared that they will not support a Congress government. The Congress was instead asked to support a third front government from outside. Her hopes thoroughly dashed, a dejected Gandhi met Narayanan on April 25 and informed him that she was unable to form a government.

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