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UPA+ could be branded as Secular Democratic Front

The name SDF was suggested by the Congress, according to people directly involved in the process of forming the alliance who asked not to be named

lok sabha elections Updated: May 23, 2019 08:45 IST
Sunetra Choudhury
Sunetra Choudhury
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPA,Congress,Lok Sabha election results 2019
The name SDF was suggested by the Congress, according to people directly involved in the process of forming the alliance who asked not to be named .(Amal KS/HT PHOTO)

A year to the date after they came together on a stage in Bengaluru to celebrate the formation of a Janata Dal (Secular)-Congress government in Karnataka and the defeat of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), many of the parties involved are hoping they will have a chance for an encore in New Delhi.

A new grouping of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) plus six parties, the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Aam Aadmi Party, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), and the Left Front, tentatively called the Secular Democratic Front (SDF), is hoping to make a bid to form the government if the election results to be announced today gives it the numbers — and provided the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance doesn’t have the numbers.

Also Read | For Karnataka coalition, a year of living dangerously

Hindustan Times has reviewed a draft of the letter prepared by the parties as part of their plan to ensure they get a chance to form the government in case no single party has the numbers required. To be sure, most exit polls suggest the BJP will have the numbers on its own, and almost all say the NDA will cross the halfway mark of 272 in the 543-member Lok Sabha.

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The letter was supposed to be part of the three-step process these parties agreed to adopt; the original plan was to send the letter to the President ahead of the results, announcing a post-poll, pre-results alliance, but this was abandoned after the BSP said it wasn’t comfortable with announcing an alliance before the numbers came out.

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The name SDF was suggested by the Congress, according to people directly involved in the process of forming the alliance who asked not to be named . A team comprising Jairam Ramesh, Abhishek Singhvi, Randeep Surjewala, and Ahmed Patel was tasked by Party President Rahul Gandhi four days ago to come up with a plan in case no party had a majority.

The team came up with a three-step plan. One, to send a letter a day before the results with the intention of staking claim with the names of all the parties in the coalition. The draft states their intention to continue to stay together even after the results are declared.

Two, to stake claim with the signatures of leaders all the parties. And three, to announce the leader of the coalition. However, three leaders HT spoke to, one in the TDP and two in the Congress, confirmed that a last-minute decision was taken not to send such a letter after the BSP thought it would be premature.

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“We would have sent the letter today but it was felt that in case the numbers were not in our favour, it would have been a premature move,’’ said one of the three.

The TDP leader and a Left Front leader added that the name SDF has also not been approved by all members. Nor, they admitted, has there been any consultation on the possible leader of such a grouping.

According to the people involved in the process of forming the alliance, three leaders have been tasked with getting on board the three parties that are not part of any grouping, the Biju Janata Dal, the Telangana Rashtra Samithi and the YSRCP: Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar and Chandrababu Naidu. The leaders of all parties in the grouping are set to fly in to Delhi, provided the numbers are favourable. A tentative meeting has been fixed for Thursday evening, the people added.

“The letter which was supposed to go today was supposed to be a precautionary step by Opposition -- preventing the President from acting in haste,’’ said an NCP leader. The Congress said that this would have given “moral authority’’ to the alliance, but didn’t insist once parties such as the BSP expressed their unease with it, this person added.

First Published: May 23, 2019 06:49 IST

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