Sonia Gandhi, chairperson of the UPA has taken the lead in opposition consolidation efforts to prepare for the possibility of a less than a clear cut verdict on May 23, the day the votes cast in the staggered national election are counted. On behalf of Sonia Gandhi, senior Congress leaders have reached out to allies like DMK chief MK Stalin as well as leaders of parties that are “non-aligned”, like Naveen Patnaik (BJD), Jagan Reddy of the YSR Congress and K Chandrashekar Rao of the TRS. Calls have also been made to the Janata Dal Secular, Sharad Pawar’s NCP and the Uttar Pradesh opposition alliance partners, Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav, sources say. So far in this national election, Sonia Gandhi has kept a low profile as her children Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi Vadra campaigned aggressively against the ruling BJP.
However, as the day of the results draws near, the party is aware that it needs every possible ally on board; many remain distant or even cold towards the Congress. Among those who are likely to attend the May 23 opposition meeting are Chandrababu Naidu and Sharad Pawar. KCR has been busy with his own mission, to try and organize a non-Congress, non-BJP front. He also met with Mr Stalin, who has openly endorsed Congress chief Rahul Gandhi for prime minister.
Last evening, as senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Congress would not “make an issue” if the PM’s post “is not offered to us”, it was seen as a climb down for the party as it struggles to stay relevant. But hours later, the party officially clarified. “As the single largest party we will have a stake on leadership but it will be dependent on the results,” said Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala.
Sources said the Congress is keen that “no time is wasted” on May 23, so it wants opposition forces together in Delhi so that if and when it’s time to form a coalition, everyone can be prepared. Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar, who has played an important role in the run-up to elections, is expected to try and evolve consensus on issues like leadership and the contours of a coalition government. Opposition parties are also working on a draft letter to be jointly addressed to the President which asks him not to call the single largest party to form the government but the single largest formation.