Prominent leaders from the south have been busy talking to various opposition parties to prepare for a scenario - unlikely according to exit polls -- that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) falls short of a majority. Uttar Pradesh politician Mayawati is believed to have conveyed her desire to be Prime Minister to one of the southern leaders who met her recently.
Sources say Mayawati has clearly told the politician that her party's support would go to "whoever supports me for Prime Minister".
For the opposition, that telegraphs the possibility that Mayawati, one of the opposition's leading players, could swing both ways, depending on who is willing to give her the top job.
Mayawati's reported condition reflects the challenges that non-BJP parties will face in attempts to consolidate and stitch up a majority if that occasion arises.
Mayawati, who tied up with old rival Samajwadi Party against the BJP in this election, has not been subtle about her ambitions.
Earlier this month, she told her workers that she "may have to" contest the Lok Sabha election from Uttar Pradesh's Ambedkar Nagar "if all goes well". That was read as a signal that she wants the top job.
"If all goes well, I may have to seek election from here because the road to national politics passes through Ambedkar Nagar," she said, addressing a public rally against a giant cutout of herself in front of the parliament building, captioned "Prime Minister".
In March, the BSP chief had given a similar hint while explaining to her party workers that they should not lose heart at her decision not to contest the Lok Sabha polls.
She said if required, she would contest later from any seat held by her party. "When I became UP Chief Minister the first time in 1995 I was not a member of either the UP Assembly or Council. Similarly there is a provision at the Centre where a person have to be a parliament member within 6 months of holding office of minister/PM. Don't be disheartened from my decision not to contest LS poll now (sic)," she tweeted at the time.
Mayawati's bitter rival turned ally, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, has indicated more than once that he would back "behenji (as Mayawati is popularly known)" for Prime Minister.
Last week, the Bahujan Samaj Party chief said the Congress's NYAY election promise was not a permanent solution for poverty and said: "If we get an opportunity to form government at the centre then instead of providing Rs. 6,000 per month to extremely poor families, we'll give them permanent jobs in government and non-government sectors."
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