In all likelihood the INC would not like to claim forming the next government in case the BJP-led NDA does not get a majority and is not able to muster enough support from potential allies; from inside or outside, by extending the NDA to get a simple absolute majority. Then in that case the INC can offer written support to the Third Front, if there is anything of the kind exists.
But its actual course of action would depend on what the tally for the INC in the Lower House of the Parliament is. Below 125 mark, the INC would like to sit quietly in opposition. But not otherwise and it may play spoilsport to the BJP chances to form the government. But in case the BJP-led NDA does not get absolute majority and somehow the INC decides to sit in opposition the decks would be distinctly cleared for the BJP-led NDA to form the next government.
President Mukherjee should be judicious and just in deciding which alliance should form the government and should not necessarily insist on that alliance proving majority on the paper. In all likelihood people have voted for the BJP-led NDA, if not that decisively. And the picture will become crystal clear on the day of counting. Therefore, Mr. Mukherjee could ask the leader of the single largest party or pre-poll alliance to stake claim to form the government and prove the actual majority in the Lower House of the Parliament.
At the worst there may be attempt for horse-trading but then there is nothing new and such practice is normal as per Indian standards in present circumstances. The fact is that Mr. Mukherjee should first see, through tally, mandate each major party gets and then should invite leader of the single largest party or pre-poll alliance to form the government in case the NDA fails to get an absolute majority. He should not worry about the other aspects of the process. But in case a party or alliance proves to him a majority on paper then in that case President Mukherjee would be left with no option but to invite its leader to form the government and seek mandate of the Parliament.
Now there are both relative and absolute ways to judge the popular mandate the BJP and the INC get. If there are significant upward and downward shifts in the number of seats and possibly in the vote share of both national parties as compared to previous general election then the party which crosses a threshold mark should be invited to form the next government. That threshold mark could be 180 seats for both the BJP and the INC and this just cannot be a bad choice. Both the national parties cannot cross that mark simultaneously as they have swapping voters along with direct two-way fight in many of the constituencies. In case of equal standing, the only proper route for both alliances for claiming their stakes to form the next government in New Delhi would be to prove majority on paper to the President?s office.
In absolute terms if an alliance gets more than or equal to 90% of a simple majority in terms of seats, i.e. around 243 seats, but not an absolute simple majority, then that alliance should be invited to form the next government. The rest maximum 10% can be left to negotiations and hard-bargaining. In all likelihood that alliance would be the NDA. While the President?s job is to make sure that due process is followed and all probable get fair chance he cannot act as an academic.
Promises, offers of promotion and packages, lure and even offers of cash are, as per Indian standards, very legitimate means for a party to secure support from lawmakers. Sure, should the government formation efforts happen nicely and decently then it is the best way but even otherwise the efforts would take place. I am sure President Mukherjee is very judicious, honest and just statesman and he would do his stuff in the best possible traditions of Raisina Hill. I do not think that there is fair chance for any other alliance different from the NDA to form the next government at Union level. But still exit polls can go wrong and one should wait for the final results to come by.
Let there be as little bureaucratic hurdles to the government formation at Center as possible. Let the most dominating dominates. Let equilibrium evolve as per the diktats of political markets. Let the due comprehensive process take place but only in the Lower House of the Indian Parliament. Let true selfishness guide all stakeholders without them hurting national interests. Let the laws of haat prevail.