Chandrababu Naidu’s plan doesn’t take off at Mamata Banerjee meet, focus back on EVMs

Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu, the prime driver of the proposal to rush to President Ramnath Kovind to apprise him of the contours of the opposition alliance, may scrap the plan after his meeting with Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

The Trinamool Congress boss, who is as convinced as Naidu and other opposition leaders that the exit polls did not capture the public sentiment, is learnt to have been of the view that going to President Kovind to ask him to treat the opposition parties as one bloc at this stage would not serve a purpose.

Naidu had flown to state capital Kolkata hours after a press conference in Amravati where he spoke about his proposal. HT had first reported Naidu’s formula to improve the opposition’s chances of getting an invite from the President in case the election results on May 23 are wildly different from the prediction by multiple exit polls that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will get a second term.

Opposition leaders who have interacted with the Andhra chief minister over the last few days told HT that Naidu’s assessment was that the BJP could end up with less than 200 seats. If this happens, Naidu believes the gap between the NDA and the opposition parties would not be wide and the opposition parties should be prepped to move in to stake claim.

Naidu’s formula is that opposition parties should submit a memorandum to President Ram Nath Kovind declaring their intent to form a coalition government even before the votes are counted. His hope was that the coalition should be treated on par with a pre-poll alliance.

Mamata Banerjee, like many other opposition leaders, was all for the plan to scale up the offensive against electronic voting machines and the election commission.

But she too was less than convinced about the utility of approaching the President before the votes are counted.

Naidu had made it clear early in the day that the proposal to knock at Rashtrapati Bhavan’s doors would be taken with consensus.

“After discussing with Mamata, I will go to Delhi later in the evening to continue deliberations with the other parties. Later, we shall take a decision on meeting the President of India,” Naidu said before embarking on the Kolkata mission.

Neither Naidu nor Mamata Banerjee spoke to reporters after the meeting.

News agency PTI, quoting a source, said the leaders had decided to hold detailed talks on the opposition grand alliance only after the votes are counted.

“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, according to PTI.

A Congress leader said the argument that a joint representation to President Kovind before counting of votes would convince Rashtrapati Bhavan to treat a post-poll alliance as a pre-poll one appeared to be misplaced. “This is something that should have been done long back… It is too late,” the leader said, underlining that this was a format advocated by Ghulam Nabi Azad many months back.

First Published:
May 20, 2019 23:20 IST

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