Opposition to meet; to move EC over VVPATs

New Delhi: Two days ahead of the Lok Sabha poll results, top opposition leaders will meet in the national capital on Tuesday to discuss the political situation and possibilities of a non-National Democratic Alliance combine to stake claim for government formation.

As part of his efforts to unite the opposition, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party leader N Chandrababu Naidu held a meeting with his West Bengal counterpart, Mamata Banerjee, at her Kolkata residence on forming a non-Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre in case of a hung verdict.

Naidu had a 45-minute meeting with Banerjee on the future strategies of the "Mahagathbandhan" (Grand Alliance), during which he also discussed the possibilities of forming a non-BJP government, including regional parties, with the support of the Congress. 

"It was decided at the meeting that a detailed discussion will be held with other players of the Mahagathbandhan in the event of a hung verdict after the poll results are declared on May 23," a source said.

The decision on Banerjee going to New Delhi would also be taken after May 23, the source added.

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav also telephoned Banerjee during the day and discussed the strategy of the "Mahagathbandhan", sources said.

Naidu has been moving around across the country and has held several rounds of discussions with top opposition leaders in a bid to unite them and form an alliance to stake claim to form the next government in case the NDA falls short of the majority mark.

The TDP chief met Banerjee again on Monday evening to discuss the political scenario in the wake of the exit poll predictions.

On Sunday, Naidu met United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi separately in New Delhi, besides Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar.

The TDP leader has already met other top opposition leaders such as Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow, Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal, Left leaders and Sharad Yadav in Delhi.

Meanwhile, Akhilesh and Mayawati also held a meeting and discussed their strategy going forward.

However, in view of the exit polls, most of which have predicted a majority for the BJP-led NDA, the opposition has turned a bit cautious and decided not to hold any formal meetings.

Top Congress leaders also held a meeting under the guidance of Sonia Gandhi on Saturday, where the current political situation was discussed.

Sources said the opposition strategy was to procure letters of support from various parties and in case of a hung verdict, to present the same before the president to stake claim to form the government.

They added that the opposition did not want to leave anything to chance and did not wish to waste any time in staking claim for government formation and thus, was putting its house in order.

Notwithstanding the exit poll predictions, the opposition is going ahead with its strategy as most parties have trashed the forecast and claimed that the NDA would not get a majority in the Lok Sabha.

Opposition leaders are citing previous examples when exit polls were proved wrong, as also elsewhere in the world like the surprise result in Australia.

Opposition leaders will also meet the Election Commission and raise the issue of tallying the paper trail of votes with the electronic voting machine figures as directed by the Supreme Court.

The opposition parties are demanding tallying of VVPAT slips with EVM figures in an entire assembly constituency in case a discrepancy is found in any polling booth.

The court has asked the EC to tally the VVPAT slips with the EVM figures of five polling stations in each assembly constituency across the country, which may delay the results.

According to sources, leaders of opposition parties such as the Congress, TDP, Left parties, BSP, NCP and TMC will informally meet on Tuesday to discuss the way forward in case the NDA fails to get to the majority mark.

Ahmed Patel and Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party, TDP's Naidu, Satish Chandra Misra of the BSP, Sitaram Yechury of the Communist Party of India-Marxist, D Raja of the Communist Party of India and Derek O'Brien of the TMC are expected to take part in Tuesday's meeting among others.

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