New Delhi: Two days ahead of counting of votes, both the ruling and the opposition parties were engaged in consultations on Tuesday with BJP president Amit Shah hosting two key meetings, and leaders of 22 opposition parties coming together to take stock of the political situation.
The opposition leaders also met the Election Commission (EC) with a demand that it should ensure transparency in the counting process by verifying EVM results with VVPATs.
Amid projections of a return of the BJP-led NDA to power, Shah organised a meeting where Prime Minister Narendra Modi met senior Union ministers, described by the ruling party as an occasion to thank ministers for "their service to the nation" ahead of the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha election on May 23.
Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Nitin Gadkari, Arun Jaitley, J P Nadda and Prakash Javadekar were among the key leaders from the BJP at the meeting. It was also attended by ministers from BJP allies, including Ram Vilas Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party, Harsimrat Kaur Badal from the Akali Dal and Anupriya Patel of the Apna Dal.
During the meeting 'Aabhar Milan' (expressing gratitude), Modi likened his campaign for this Lok Sabha election to a pilgrimage, saying it stood out from other polls as it was being fought by the people and not the party alone.
"I have seen many elections but this one was beyond politics. Public was fighting them. I have campaigned in assembly elections and undertaken political tours for the party in different elections. When I toured during these polls, it seemed that I was on a pilgrimage," the prime minister was quoted by a BJP leader as saying.
Shah also later hosted a dinner for party leaders and allies.
Faced with the unfavourable exit poll predictions, the opposition leaders during the meeting did not discuss any concrete strategy, and agreed to remain in constant consultations to chalk out the future course of action, depending on the outcome of the polls.
Those who attended the meeting included senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Abhishek Singhvi, Ahmed Patel and Ashok Gehlot, Telugu Desam Party's N Chandrababu Naidu, Samajwadi Party's Ram Gopal Yadav, CPM's Sitaram Yechuri and T K Rangarajan, AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, NCP's Praful Patel and Majeed Memon and DMK's K Kanimozhi.
Trinamool Congress' Derek O'Brien, RJD's Manoj Jha, CPI's S Sudhakar Reddy and D Raja, LJD's Javed Razawa, NC's Devender Rana and JD-S' Kupendra Reddy were also among those present.
After the meeting, they met the EC and submitted a memorandum, demanding the tallying of votes of electronic voting machines with a paper trail of votes (VVPATs) of five randomly identified polling booths in an assembly segment before counting begins on Thursday.
"We told the EC that the VVPAT machines should be counted first and if there is any discrepancy, then all of them in that segment should be counted," Azad told reporters.
The opposition leaders again held talks after meeting the Commission and decided they would be in constant touch with each other on counting day and after that too to discuss possibilities of forming a coalition government, an opposition leader told PTI.
Meanwhile, continuing his efforts to unite opposition parties against the BJP, Naidu is scheduled to hold discussions with JDS chief H D Deve Gowda and his son and Karnataka Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru.
Separately, Kejriwal also talked to Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav over phone to discuss the strategy to be followed after the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll results.