In Goa, Congress corralled all 37 candidates at a resort while simultaneously reaching out to smaller parties like MGP, TMC, NCP and AAP to avoid a re-run of 2017 when it was prevented from forming the government by BJP despite emerging as the single largest party.
At the same time, outgoing CM Pramod Sawant met PM Modi in Delhi on Tuesday and discussed with the latter BJP’s prospects in each seat.
“BJP will form the government, Modi told me,” Sawant told TOI from Delhi following his meeting.
Later, Sawant, BJP state president Sadanand Shet Tanavade and the party’s Goa election in-charge Devendra Fadnavis held a meeting in Mumbai to discuss the formation of the next government.
However, the going could be tough for Sawant in the event of a hung assembly, particularly in the light of former BJP ally MGP leader Ramkrishna ‘Sudin’ Dhavalikar’s assertion that the former is not acceptable to his party as CM.
Fadnavis had recently held a meeting with Dhavalikar over post-poll alliance. Dhavalikar, whose party has an alliance with TMC, had told Fadnavis that a decision will be taken after the results. BJP is also in touch with some independent candidates who have a chance to win.
Dhavalikar had a meeting with Congress leaders on Tuesday. “Goa will see a fractured mandate and MGP will support the party that will support MGP and the aspiration of the people of Goa,” Dhavalikar said, adding that they will take a decision on government formation on March 10 at 4pm.
Congress raises its guard
Meanwhile, Congress on Tuesday evening moved all its 37 candidates to a resort in North Goa to safeguard against possible moves by BJP to strike a deal with any of them. The candidates will be able to leave the resort only on Thursday, counting day.
“We were all told to report to the resort at 5pm. I have packed my bags and will leave after a while,” said one of the candidates.
A few whose credentials are beyond doubt, will be able to leave the resort in between if they wish, but others will not be able to, he said.
A senior Congress functionary, however, said no such instructions were issued. Some felt that it being the birthday of opposition leader Digambar Kamat, they should celebrate by staying overnight at a hotel, the functionary said. “You can call it a birthday celebration. The candidates are not kids, who can be kept locked in a place. It’s their decision to stay together.”
In 2017, though Congress had won 17 seats, by the end of the five-year term, it was left empty handed. All its MLAs except for Kamat and Poreim MLA Pratapsingh Rane deserted the party.
Jittery parties in Uttarakhand rush in netas
Similar political activity was observed in Uttarakhand, where most exit polls have predicted that neither BJP nor Congress would get a clear majority.
Top central leaders of the two parties have started arriving in the hill state to “manage” the situation arising after the counting of votes on March 10.
Sources in the two parties told TOI the “seniors are there to take swift decisions, including on post-poll tie-ups”.
While BJP rushed senior leader Kailash Vijayvargiya on Sunday to assist party leader and former CM Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank in preparing for any political exigency, Congress deputed Rajya Sabha MP Deepender Hooda to Dehradun on Tuesday.
Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel is scheduled to arrive in the city on Wednesday and stay put in the state capital till things take a final shape after the results.
As BJP seniors went into a huddle almost immediately after converging in Dehradun, the Congress brass, including Hooda and state in-charge Devender Yadav, held a series of meetings.
In case of a hung assembly in the 70-member House, kingmakers will play a big role in government formation.
If sources are to be believed, both Congress and BJP have already reached out to regional parties and “strong” independents, candidates who have a good chance of winning from their seats.
Taking a cue from the experiences of Goa and Manipur in 2017, when Congress failed to form a government despite emerging as the single largest party, its leaders are making all efforts to ensure no such situation is repeated this time in Uttarakhand.
Congress vice-president Surendra Kumar told TOI, “The party will not take chances. ”BJP’s election in-charge and Union minister Prahlad Joshi has directed party members to remain alert till the last vote is counted.
BJP state in-charge Dushyant Kumar Gautam, too, is camping in Uttarakhand. In 2017, BJP won 57 seats, Congress 11 and independents 2. This time, a number of candidates from BSP, Uttarakhand Kranti Dal (UKD), Uttarakhand Jan Ekta Party (UJEP) and some independents “have done well in around 10 constituencies”, say poll observers.
(With inputs from Bindiya Chari)