Predicting a "clear mandate" for anti-BJP parties, TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu says all opposition leaders are better than Narendra Modi but a decision on who will be prime minister will be a consensus one taken after the groups sit together following the results.
The bitterness among people about the Modi government will help the anti-BJP parties come to power in the Lok Sabha elections, the Andhra Pradesh chief minister told PTI in an interview.
Discussing probable candidates for the prime minister's post, Naidu said, "Everybody is strong. All leaders in the opposition are very strong. They are better than Narendra Modi. But for the selection of the PM, we (opposition leaders) have to sit together and decide who is the best candidate... We will have to reach a consensus on this."
Asked whether Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee will be a contender, he said, "That we have not discussed so far. We will sit together after the results of the elections are out and then will discuss this."
Naidu ruled himself out of the prime ministerial race, saying he is very clear that he is a facilitator and a coordinator.
"Like me there are some other leaders who are coordinating," he said.
In his view, Election 2019 will not throw up a fractured mandate. "All the opposition parties will have a clear mandate. And the trend has been showing... The BJP has lost all the by-elections. There is bitterness among the people that will help the opposition parties," he said.
The TDP chief, however, did not want to predict the margin. "I do not want to say the numbers but it is very clear that the Narendra Modi government will exit on May 23," he said. Asked about the trend of the first five phase of elections, he said the mood was anti-BJP and pro-opposition throughout the country because people want a change from the non-performing Modi government.
The BJP, Naidu said, has nothing to communicate and is trying to abuse, attack and victimise its rivals.
The Congress and other opposition parties are working together, he asserted.
Naidu met Banerjee Thursday evening on future plans of the grand alliance, sources in the party said. He met Congress president on Wednesday.
Asked on plans for a meeting of opposition parties on May 21, two days before the counting day (May 23), for a post-poll alliance, he said, "We are discussing with everybody. Even Rahul, Mamata ji, Sharad Pawar. Everybody is taking the lead. We will meet again at an appropriate time convenient to everybody and then decide the PM candidate."
The meeting could be held even after the results on May 23.
Naidu was critical of the prime minister for his remarks on the late Rajiv Gandhi. "You may differ with us on some policies but why personal attacks? Also, Rajiv Gandhi passed away 25 years ago. Why are you bringing him up now. Where's the dignity? As a PM, one should be magnanimous."
Asserting that he hadn't seen such low-level politics in India, Naidu accused the prime minister of "lopsided thinking".
He alleged that Modi played games by extending Odisha help in the aftermath of Cyclone Fani.
"Modi is an opportunist. During the elections in Odisha, he attacked (Chief Minister) Naveen Patnaik. Now, because of the natural calamity and because he thinks he is losing, he is announcing monetary help to win over Patnaik."
Naidu also asked why such large numbers of central forces were deployed in West Bengal for the elections. He also found substance in Banerjee's allegations that the Election Commission (EC) was working at the behest of the BJP.
"They are bringing all the central forces only to West Bengal. Is there any necessity for that? In Andhra Pradesh, there was only one or two home guards in each booth. That is how they conducted the elections there. So, the EC has to be impartial, they have to maintain their credibility," he said.
"By doing all these things, knowing or unknowingly... ultimately you will lose your credibility... it is quite obvious they (the EC) are working for the BJP," he alleged.
Naidu, who was on a two-day visit to West Bengal to participate in campaign rallies of the Trinamool Congress, also expressed high hopes about the performance of Banerjee's party.
"The frequent visits of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to West Bengal will hardly give them any result. Mamata ji stood strong against the atrocities of the Modi regime and proved a challenge to these anti-constitutional forces. The BJP couldn’t challenge Didi and her strength. That's the reason they are resorting to their never-ending communal politics to divide the people of Bengal," Naidu said.