With a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha, United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet President Pratibha Patil at 5 pm on Wednesday to stake claim to form the new government.
This was decided unanimously at a meeting of the leaders of the United Progressive Alliance in which Gandhi was re-elected as the chairperson.
Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, National Conference chief Dr Farooq Abdullah, Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam chief M Karunanidhi, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha chief Shibu Soren, and the Congress' top rung including Pranab Mukherjee, Rahul Gandhi, A K Antony and Ahmed Patel attended the meeting.
Gandhi's name was proposed by Karunanidhi and seconded by Mamata Banerjee.
TC, with 19 Members of Parliament, and DMK with 18 seats, are the two large constituents of the UPA coalition after the Congress, which has won 216 seats. The coalition has already received the support of a large number of parties and it has now the backing of around 315 MPs, much higher than the required 272 for a majority in the 543-member Lok Sabha.
While Gandhi will present a letter to the President giving details about the re-election of Dr Singh as the chief of the Congress Parliamentary Party, Dr Singh would hand over letters of support to the UPA government by the pre-poll alliance partners, and others who have decided to join hands with him in the formation of a secular group.
President Patil will extend an invitation to Dr Singh to form the next government at the Centre. "No date has been fixed for the oath-taking ceremony," informed a senior functionary of the Rashtrapati Bhavan.
According to sources, Dr Singh is likely to be sworn in as the prime minister along with a selected few ministers, and the Union cabinet would be expanded later.
Meanwhile, Congress spokesperson Janardhan Dwivedi denied reports that UPA ally and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has been left out of the meeting. "I have never said that he would be kept out (from the union cabinet)," he said.
He also evaded a direct response to the demand made by some Members of Parliament from Maharashtra that the Congress should cut off its ties with the NCP.
"Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel have expressed their support to the government. I can't make a statement about who said what during the poll campaign or after," Dwivedi said.
Speaking on the Common Minimum Programme, he said, "By and large, pro-poor policies have gone down well with the people and efforts are on to strengthen them. We might form a committee to look into this aspect and suggest some new measures."
When asked about both Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party extending their support to the UPA government, he said, "As far as the Congress is concerned, all parties which have lent their support to Dr Singh's government are secular."