In what can be seen as sounding the poll bugle for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Sonia Gandhi on Thursday called for an alliance of 'like-minded parties' to ensure the BJP was defeated.
It is clear that Sonia has set the ball rolling for the formation of UPA 3. Sonia succeeded in stitching a coalition with the Left parties to form the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that ruled the country for the next 10 years. Sonia urged party leaders and workers to be ready for an early Lok Sabha election. UPA-1 and UPA-2 were in power from 2004-2009 and again in 2009-2014, before BJP-led NDA won 2014 general elections with an overwhelming majority. Manmohan Singh had served as the Prime Minister in both UPA terms.
"I will work with the Congress President and other colleagues in discussions with like-minded, political parties to ensure that in the next election, the BJP is defeated and India is restored to a democratic, inclusive, secular, tolerant and economically progressive path," Sonia said while speaking to party members at the parliamentary party meeting of the Congress on Thursday.
The UPA was formed soon after the 2004 general elections when it had become clear that no party had won an absolute majority. The then ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had won 181 seats in the 543-member 14th Lok Sabha, as opposed the UPA's tally of 218 seats.
Initially, UPA was given external support from the Left Front which totalled 59 MPs. Similar external support was also promised by several smaller parties that were not a member of any coalition, including the Samajwadi Party with 39 MPs, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party with 4 MPs, the Janata Dal (Secular) with 3 MPs, and Bahujan Samaj Party with 19 MPs, who promised to support the government if it faced a vote of confidence. Nevertheless, these parties were not a part of the government. The UPA thus had at least 335 MPs out of 543 supporting it at the time of its formation.