Oppn works on support letters to President

High stakes for Rahul Gandhi, Priyanka; Congress hopes to see revival at national level

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 22

As the countdown to the declaration of the 17th General Election results began today, the Congress-led Opposition maintained stoic silence firming up an anti-BJP coalition behind the scenes.

Opposition sources said all UPA partners and major regional parties, primarily the TDP, were engaged in keeping letters of support for a potential anti-BJP grouping of parties ready for President Ram Nath Kovind.

Top leaders did not comment on whether they would approach the President with such letters before the declaration of formal results tomorrow, but said “nothing in the law bars us from doing so.”

Congress strategists along with TDP chief N Chandrababu Naidu have been talking to a range of regional parties, asking them to commit letters saying their MPs will support an anti-BJP grouping of parties tomorrow.

The logic behind the exercise is simple, say sources. “Consider two options before the President—a grouping of parties claiming majority MPs in Lok Sabha and a grouping of MPs that claim to shore up a requisite majority. Which grouping should the President ideally call first? The former,” a senior Congress leader said.

Asked why the President should not call the single largest party, which could be the BJP, an opposition leader said, “The President can call anyone but everyone will see what he is doing if he ignores a grouping that presents a ready majority option over another that claims a majority later.”

The Congress is banking on decent performance itself, plus a phenomenal performance by regional players who, it feels, won’t go with the BJP at any cost. Party president Rahul Gandhi’s recent statement “BSP, SP, TMC may not have fought in alliance with the Congress but they won’t support the BJP” mirrors Congress strategy of drafting a wider anti-BJP grouping with all regional forces on board, among them the BSP, SP, JDS and TMC which are currently not in the UPA.

Congress feels if it can offer to the President letters of support from regional players for an anti-BJP coalition, it can pip the BJP at the game of staking claim to government formation and put the President in moral dilemma.

“For this, we don’t have to await the declaration of final results. We can send letters to the President beforehand saying whoever gets elected from a given set of parties will support an anti-BJP grouping whose leader can be chosen later on,” said a Congress leader.

Will it be a repeat of 1996?

Everyone in the Opposition is waiting to see if 1996 history will repeat itself when the Congress offered outside support to IK Gujral and HD Deve Gowda-led governments or whether the Congress this time can join a potential anti-BJP grouping under a non-Congress PM? The Congress realises the anti-BJP grouping's leadership question could prove key to pipping BJP at the numbers game like Congress president Rahul Gandhi did in Karnataka by offering the CM-ship to JD-S. Congress leaders say a Congress PM would be feasible only if the party repeats its 2004 performance when it won 145 MPs. 

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