On MK Stalin's proposal that Rahul Gandhi be named the prime ministerial candidate, other parties say decision should be taken by an opposition bloc only after the 2019 elections
As his suggestion that Rahul Gandhi be named the opposition's prime ministerial candidate met with a thumbs-down from most parties, DMK leader MK Stalin put out a statement on Monday defending his idea. The Congress president can unite and coordinate secular forces, he argued.
"Projecting Rahul Gandhi for PM is the right thing to unite secular forces," Mr Stalin said, pointing out that the Congress chief was "responsible for victory in three BJP bastion states".
He referred to the DMK's history with the Gandhi family to make his point. In 1980, he said, his father and DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi's call to Indira Gandhi led to her victory. "In 2004, Congress captured power after Karunanidhi endorsed Sonia Gandhi," he added.
Mr Stalin urged opposition parties to "strengthen Rahul's hands for gloomy India to light up".
The DMK leader spent much of Monday with Rahul Gandhi, 48, attending the Congress oath ceremonies in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, which became a platform for opposition unity photo-ops months before the 2019 national election.
"We require a strong leadership to coordinate democratic forces. That's why I've proposed Rahul Gandhi. Rahul's hands ought to be strengthened to extricate the country from communalism and to establish democracy," Mr Stalin said.
The DMK chief's proposal has rattled parties like Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, Chandrababu Naidu's Telugu Desam Party, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, Farooq Abdullah's National Conference, Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, the CPM and also the NCP of Sharad Pawar.
These parties say the decision should be taken by an opposition bloc only after the polls.
The Trinamool Congress said Mr Stalin's statement was premature and would divide the opposition. "Not only Trinamool, other opposition parties are also of the opinion that any decision on the PM candidate should be only after the Lok Sabha election results. Any announcement on the PM candidate right now would be premature as it would divide the Opposition camp," a senior Trinamool leader was quoted as telling the Press Trust of India.
A Samajwadi leader agreed. "We have stood steadfast that the mandate of 2019 would determine who would lead the government that is formed after that. If we read the elections right, the current mandate is also one that is based on agenda rather than leadership," said Ghanshyam Tiwari of the Samajwadi Party.