- Sonia Gandhi is trying for an opposition parties meet on May 23
- Chandrababu Naidu, Sharad Pawar are likely to attend the meeting
- Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav are likely to skip the meet
Sonia Gandhi, who remains chairperson of the UPA after handing charge of the Congress to son Rahul Gandhi in 2017, has taken the lead in opposition consolidation efforts to prep for the possibility of a less than decisive 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 climbdown 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.
It is the leadership question that may have at least three key opposition leaders skipping the meet - Mamata Banerjee, Mayawati and her ally Samajwadi leader Akhilesh Yadav.
Sources said Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu was told by Mamata Banerjee that there was no need for any such meeting before the results were out. Mayawati has also not RSVP-ed. Both Mayawati and Mamata Banerjee are seen to be in the race for the top job.
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.
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