Congress allies rally behind Sonia as PM
Nineteen parties with 300-plus MPs back Sonia. The process of Govt formation will begin on Monday when the EC will request the President to notify the new House.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has emerged as the unanimous choice of all secular parties, barring Mayawati's BSP, to lead a non-NDA coalition government at the Centre.
Sonia's name for the prime minister's office was proposed by the DMK's M. Karunanidhi and seconded by the RJD's Laloo Prasad Yadav and the NCP's Sharad Pawar. The proposal was carried unanimously by leaders of other parties, including the Left Front, the SP's Amar Singh and the RLD's Ajit Singh.
In the 14th Lok Sabha, the aggregate strength of the 19 allied and supporting parties will exceed the 300-mark, way beyond the magic figure of 272.
Besides Mayawati, who has also backed the Congress-led secular government, JD (S) leader H.D. Deve Gowda was absent at the meeting though there are no doubts about his opposition to the NDA.
The process of forming the government is likely to begin on Monday when the full Election Commission will meet President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to request him to notify the new House.
While briefing newsmen on Sonia's acceptance as prime minister, Manmohan Singh had said the Congress president would approach the President to stake her claim after the constitution of the Lok Sabha.
Amar Singh and Ajit Singh were not invited to the meeting of the Congress's pre-poll allies, followed by an extended session that included the Communists. They surprised their hosts by accompanying CPI(M) general secretary Harkishan Singh Surjeet, who had unilaterally announced that the SP would join the Congress-led government.
Surjeet's attempt to foist the SP on the new government is resented by the Congress, which is reluctant to share power with Mulayam Singh Yadav (its main rival in UP) for the same reasons which make the CPI-M reluctant to join the government to protect its bases in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala.
Moreover, Surjeet's assurance on behalf of Mulayam was one of the factors that had prompted Sonia to claim the support of 272 MPs after the fall of the Vajpayee government in 1999. Subsequently, her efforts to provide an alternative government fell through because the SP was not forthcoming.
When asked whether the SP would be part of the government, Manmohan Singh said the Congress would like all constituents to be part of the new regime.