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Push for UPA-3: Sonia Gandhi hosts dinner for leaders across party lines

By Vikas Sv
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    A need for a strong alliance has become the need of the hour for the opposition if they have to take on the BJP juggernaut. Sonia Gandhi seems to be one such leader who can unite the opposition and stitch an alliance which can give NDA a tough fight. Sonia Gandhi will on Tuesday on Tuesday hosted a dinner for Opposition leaders, attended by leaders of 17 Opposition parties.

    Opposition party leaders at dinner hosted by Sonia Gandhi

    According to sources, leaders of NCP, RJD, Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Trinamool Congress, DMK and Left parties attended the dinner among others. The prominent leaders in attendance were NCP's Sharad Pawar, SP's Ram Gopal Yadav, BSP's Satish Chandra Misra and former chief ministers Omar Abdullah, Babulal Marandi, Hemant Soren and Jiten Ram Manjhi, besides JD(U)'s Sharad Yadav and RLD's Ajit Singh. The RJD was represented by both children of party chief Lalu Prasad former deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav and Misa Bharti.

    The others present included TMC's Sudip Bandyopadhyay, CPI-M's D Raja and Mohammad Salim, DMK's Kanimozhi, AIUDF's Baddrauddin Ajmal and leaders of Kerala Congress, besides Kupender Reddy of the JD-S. Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Mallikarjun Kharge, Ahmed Patel, AK Antony and Randeep Surjewala were among the Congress leaders present.

    In what was seen as sounding the poll bugle for 2019 Lok Sabha elections, Sonia Gandhi had on February 8 called for an alliance of 'like-minded parties' to ensure the BJP was defeated. So today, Sonia is taking the next step and will probably set the ball rolling for 'UPA-3'.

    According to Congress sources, leaders of Andhra Pradesh's ruling Telugu Desam Party, which recently pulled out its ministers in the Modi government but continues to be a constituent of the NDA, BJD, and the TRS have not been invited.

    "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 had told party workers in February.

    Sonia succeeded in stitching a coalition with the Left parties to form the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) that ruled the country for 10 years. Sonia has been urging 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.

    [Congress gearing up for 2019 elections, Sonia Gandhi sets the ball rolling for UPA-3]

    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.

    OneIndia News with PTI inputs

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