Sonia Gandhi comes to the fore to rally anti-BJP parties

Sonia kicks off Mission 272 with May 23 invite to political heavyweights
As the election results draw closer, Sonia Gandhi returns to take the leadership role to forge a grand opposition alliance which had unfortunately failed last year.

The Congress is all set to join forces with all parties that are neither part of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) or United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and form a third front (UPA+) as the country awaits the Lok Sabha poll results on May 23. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi is in the forefront of this move to bring together all anti-BJP parties.

If the Congress were to win between 130-140 seats on its own, then the party would demand that its chief Rahul Gandhi should be made the Prime Minister.

However, if the Congress were able to win only 100-110 seats, the party may not make any claims for the PM's post, sources said.

Senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad has made it clear that his party was not concerned about winning the Prime Minister's post and its main target was to oust PM Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah. On Friday, he clarified saying the biggest political party should be given a chance to form the government if the results throw up a hung parliament.

Outside support to govt?

Sonia Gandhi has called for a meeting of all non-NDA parties, including the regional players for a meeting on May 23, the day of the counting of the Lok Sabha polls. If the Congress' seat share falls considerably, the party would give outside support to the government that will be formed with the regional parties. In such a scenario, BSP supremo Mayawati or Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee might vie for the PM post and the Congress would then make a decision on whom to support, according to sources.

The number of seats that both the parties would win would be crucial in deciding this.

If the power struggle escalates, the names of Sharad Pawar of the (Nationalist Congress Party) NCP or HD Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal (Secular) -- JD(S) -- could be considered.

However, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N Chandrababu Naidu is of the opinion that the Congress offering outside support to the government, like in the 1996, cannot be repeated.

An anti-BJP government that also includes the Congress can only survive, he has told other party chiefs.

Crucial meet on May 23

DMK chief MK Stain has confirmed receiving a letter from Sonia Gandhi, inviting his party to a meet of all opposition parties.

Apart from the UPA constituents, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Trinamool Congress, Left parties, TDP, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS), YSR Congress and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) would be invited to the meet, sources said.

Both YSR Congress and TRS are reportedly not keen on attending the meet when the counting is on as they would like to take a decision only when the results give a clear picture.