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Congress, BJP teams prepare for D-Day

George Iype in New Delhi | May 12, 2004 18:22 IST
Last Updated: May 12, 2004 19:23 IST

Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress A-teams held several meetings on Wednesday to prepare for the people's verdict.

Leaders from both parties spoke to their counterparts in regional parties to ensure they are ahead in the numbers game in the event of a hung Parliament.

The Congress team, set up by party president Sonia Gandhi, consists of senior leaders Dr Manmohan Singh, Arjun Singh, Ahmed Patel, Ambika Soni, K Natwar Singh, R K Dhawan, Kamal Nath and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Congress officials say Arjun Singh and Natwar Singh have been asked to talk to Samajwadi Party President and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav.

The Congress team has been asked to ensure that the BJP leadership does not 'poach' any party that has agreed to join a Congress-led coalition.

The BJP team includes Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani, Finance Minister Jaswant Singh, party president M Venkaiah Naidu, Pramod Mahajan, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.

Assisting them is National Democratic Alliance convener and Defence Minister George Fernandes.

Fernandes and Mahajan are said to be in touch with the Samajwadi Party.

The BJP leaders are debating the options in case the NDA fails to touch the halfway mark -- 272 -- in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

One section of the BJP argues that the party should not offer to form a government if the NDA does not get 250 seats.

But leaders like Mahajan insist that a government led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee must be formed, irrespective of the number of seats the coalition gets.

BJP leaders believe if the NDA does not secure a simple majority, a Congress-led coalition will not take off.

"They will be fighting among themselves once the results are out," a BJP leader commented.

Special: Manmohan for PM?

The BJP believes if the Congress insists that Sonia Gandhi be made prime minister, the non-NDA front will break up and leaders like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar will join the NDA.

Meanwhile, both parties cancelled their daily media briefing on Wednesday.

Neither party, it seemed, wanted to speculate about the outcome, especially in view of the assembly verdict in Andhra Pradesh.

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