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Shah to host dinner for partners today

With exit polls predicting a comfortable victory for the NDA in the Lok Sabha elections, BJP president Amit Shah will host a dinner for leaders of the alliance partners on Tuesday to discuss the Government formation exercise at the Centre. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be present at the dinner. Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) president Nitish Kumar, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray and Lok Janshakti Party head Ram Vilas Paswan are likely to attend the meeting, which will take place two days before the counting of votes for the Lok Sabha polls on May 23. A meeting of key BJP leaders, including Union Ministers, is also scheduled to be held at the party headquarters before the dinner meeting with allies. The BJP’s decision to start the Government formation exercise before the election results stems from six exit polls predicting 300 plus Lok Sabha seats for the NDA. Several BJP leaders asserted on Monday that the party will get a majority on its own, repeating the unprecedented feat it achieved in 2014 by winning 282 seats. Confident of winning the polls, Modi has reportedly asked the PMO to be ready with programmes for next 100 days. While the BJP leadership is supremely confident of returning to power, the Opposition has not given up hopes despite the fact that the exit polls has predicted a grim scenario for the Congress and other regional parties. As part of his ongoing exercise to unite the Opposition to keep alive the prospect of dislodging the NDA if it fails to get the numbers, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and TDP chief Chandrababu Naidu on Monday met his West Bengal counterpart Mamata Banerjee at her Kalighat residence. The two leaders did not make any official statement after their 45-minute meeting, but sources said they discussed a whole lot of issues that could arise after the poll results. The two leaders also discussed issues that should find focus on a possible common minimum programme “should a situation arise” where an Opposition Government becomes a possibility. Sources said the leaders also discussed ways to keep all the constituents of the grand alliance united under one umbrella. Naidu had met Congress president Rahul Gandhi, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and other leaders before discussion with Mamata. The Bengal Chief Minister had on Sunday rejected exit polls’ prediction. Meanwhile, violence continued even after the conclusion of the seventh phase of general elections in Bengal with voters from many villages making appeals to the Election Commission to delay the departure of Central forces. “We want the CRPF to stay in Bengal for another one month otherwise they will torch our houses and loot our belongings,” said Sona Mondal of Mathurapur. “Our houses have been looted and our men have been badly beaten up by TMC men. They have threatened to loot and torch our houses after the Central forces leave the State,” she said. Tuesday, 21 May 2019 | PNS | New Delhi

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