On Government Formation Question, Mallikarjun Kharge's "New Partners" Hint

Both the TDP and the JDU have been allies of the Congress in the past.

The TDP-BJP alliance was firmed up just before the elections.

New Delhi:

Not ruling out an attempt at government formation by the INDIA bloc, Congress leaders Rahul Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge have said a call on reaching out to the Telugu Desam Party and the Janata Dal United, both of which have been former allies of the party, will be taken by the opposition alliance at a meeting tomorrow.

The statement becomes relevant because a margin of only 60 seats separates the NDA and INDIA, which are at 292 and 232 respectively. The BJP has failed to attain a majority on its own and is leading in 240 constituencies - including the 62 it has won - as of 6.10 pm while Chandrababu Naidu's TDP is at 16 and the JDU is at 12. 

When a reporter pointed out at a press conference that while the NDA has attained a majority, some of its partners had been Congress allies and asked whether the party had decided to sit in the opposition or make attempts to from the government, Mr Gandhi said, "We are going to have a meeting with our INDIA alliance partners, I believe the meeting is tomorrow, and these questions will be raised and answered there. We respect our partners and we are not going to make a statement in the press without seeking their opinion."

Pressed on the issue, the Wayanad MP, who has won the seat for a second time and has achieved victory in Rae Bareli as well, said, "There is a fine line... We will act according to the decision taken by the INDIA alliance."

When Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge was asked the same question, he dropped a hint about new partners. 

Speaking in Hindi, Mr Kharge said, "Until we talk to our alliance partners... and the new partners that could join us about how we could work together and get a majority, we will see. If I reveal all our strategies now, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will become wary ('hoshiyar ho jayenge')."

There have been reports of people from the INDIA camp, especially Sharad Pawar, having reached out to Mr Naidu and Mr Kumar this afternoon, but the NCP leader has refuted them. 

The TDP-BJP alliance was firmed up just before the elections and, even before counting began, experts had speculated that Mr Naidu could switch sides if he saw more benefits with the INDIA bloc. The TDP was part of the United Progressive Alliance in 2019.

Nitish Kumar's association with the Congress is even more recent and he had played a pivotal role in the creation of the INDIA bloc, before joining the NDA once again in January. The Bihar chief minister had also snapped ties with the BJP ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections because the party had declared Narendra Modi as the prime ministerial candidate.