Sri Lanka's main leftist party, the JVP or the People's Liberation Front, claimed Thursday that it was fast emerging as the country's main opposition.
Somawansa Amerasinghe, the JVP leader, told reporters that "we are on the way of becoming the main opposition party. That is a wish of the people and it should happen."
The JVP said that the party will have to act as the country's main opposition with responsibility in view of mass defections by the current main opposition party, the United National Party (UNP), to the government of President Mahinda Rajapakse.
Some 18 members joined the Rajapakse administration on Sunday with 10 of them becoming cabinet ministers.
Political sources said that more UNP members are to join the government soon.
The JVP has a strength of 38 seats in the 225-member parliament and the UNP is left with just 44 after Sunday's defections.
The JVP leader dismissed government accusations that it was the refusal by the JVP to join the government that had led to the UNP members being accommodated in the government.
Amerasinghe stressed that his party was having talks with President Rajapakse based on a program in order to join the government.
"However the president started talks with the UNP even before our talks came into any conclusion," the JVP leader said.
The JVP was instrumental in ensuring Rajapakse's victory in the presidential election of November 2005 but stayed out of the government on policy differences -- mainly on the issue of peace negotiations with Tamil Tiger rebels.
Although opposing the government in parliament, Amerasinghe said that his party would support the government on its campaign against terrorism in the north and east.