United Progressive Alliance Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has invited Opposition leaders to a meeting in New Delhi on May 23, when Lok Sabha election results will be announced, multiple reports said on Thursday.
Opposition parties may need to stitch a coalition to form a government if the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and its alliance fail to manage a majority on their own. In the last few months, several parties have pitched the idea of a grand alliance, or mahagathbandhan, to keep the saffron party and its allies out of power.
The majority mark in the Lok Sabha is 272. The seven-phase Lok Sabha elections will conclude on Sunday with 59 constituencies going to polls.
The Congress wants to keep the Opposition parties together on the counting day so that everyone is prepared if a coalition is needed and no time is wasted, NDTV quoted unidentified party officials as saying.
Sonia Gandhi has reportedly invited Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam President MK Stalin, and leaders of the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Trinamool Congress, the Janata Dal (Secular), the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. Pawar and Stalin have confirmed they will attend the meeting, IANS reported.
Opposition parties are also reportedly working on a draft letter that they will send to President Ram Nath Kovind, urging him to invite the single-largest coalition, and not the single-largest party, to form the government, NDTV reported.
An unidentified Congress leader told The Economic Times: “We are exploring a unity meeting soon after the results are announced...Some parties will open their cards only after seeing the results.”
Unidentified officials told the ANI news agency that four Congress leaders – Ahmed Patel, P Chidambaram, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ashok Gehlot – have been asked to work on ways to form a post-poll coalition of like-minded parties.
Gandhi has also asked senior Congress leaders, including Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath, to reach out to “non-aligned” parties such as the Biju Janata Dal, the YSR Congress Party and the Telangana Rashtra Samithi, reported The Indian Express. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao of the TRS has been pushing for a non-Congress and non-Bharatiya Janata Party formation at the Centre.
Some Opposition parties had earlier planned the meeting on May 21, but they could not reach a consensus as others felt that a meeting before the declaration of results would be meaningless, according to The Indian Express.
Meanwhile, BJP spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said: “The decision that Congress-friendly Opposition parties will have to make is whether they want to mourn their defeat in isolation or participate in a collective mourning experience.”
On Wednesday, senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad had said his party will have no problem if it does not get the prime ministerial post after the Lok Sabha elections. He said the focus of the Opposition was to stop the BJP from forming the government at the Centre. “We will go with the unanimous decision,” he had said. “We do not want to create any issue at this time that if we don’t become, no one else should.”
On Sunday, Stalin had met K Chandrasekhar Rao, but th following day he ruled out the need for an alternative front without the BJP or the Congress. They had met last year too, but the DMK formed an alliance with the Congress for the Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu.
In December 2018, Stalin had proposed that Congress President Rahul Gandhi could be the joint Opposition alliance’s prime ministerial candidate. He had to defend his decision after Opposition leaders objected to it, saying the decision would be taken after the elections.