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India's Leading Political Parties Begin Drawing Up Political Strategies

  • Anjana Pasricha

In India, the two national parties are drawing up their political strategies, after the conclusion of polling in the country's general elections. Votes will be counted Saturday. But exit polls show a divided parliament, with the ruling Congress-led alliance slightly ahead of the alliance led by the opposition Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.

Emerging from consultations with party leaders, a top official of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Narendra Modi, says he is confident the alliance led by his party will form the next government in New Delhi. Modi arrived in the capital a day after polling ended, to spearhead the hunt for new allies.

Congress Party leaders appear equally confident that they will lead India's next government. They huddled for hours at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's residence to identify which parties to court to get past the halfway mark in parliament.

Local media is alive with reports of who was reaching out to whom.

A number of exit polls show the Congress-led alliance getting a slim lead of between five and 20 seats over the BJP-led alliance.

But the exit polls show a parliament with neither side anywhere close to the 272 seats needed for a majority. As a result, both alliances will need to find new partners from a host of regional parties set to bag the remaining seats.

Amitabh Mattoo, a political analyst in New Delhi, says the exit polls reinforce what many have been forecasting - a coalition government will come to power, but its final shape is difficult to determine.

"This is probably one of the closest contests and the only certainty is that no one party will be in a position to lead the government on its own and that both will require support from outside their traditional allies," he said.

Political analyst Mattoo says that, in the days to come, many regional groups may gravitate towards the party which is in the best position to form a government, because none of them - except leftist parties - are driven by ideological concerns.

"All others really will be dictated by their interest. So they will negotiate on the basis of what they can get in terms of better deal, regionally and nationally," said Mattoo.

The political deal-making is set to start in earnest after results are counted, Saturday.