In a massive show of Opposition unity ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year, United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and several other political bigwigs on Sunday arrived at the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s (DMK) headquarters in Chennai to unveil the statue of the party’s late patriarch and former Tamil Nadu chief minister M Karunanidhi.
Sonia inaugurated the nine-feet bronze statue at Anna Arivalayam in the presence of DMK president M K Stalin, who had personally invited the UPA chairperson during his visit to the national capital earlier this month. The statue has been placed alongside DMK founder and late Tamil Nadu CM CN Annadurai’s statue. After unveiling the statue, the Gandhis also paid homage to Karunanidhi at his memorial in Marina Beach. Besides this, the Congress leader also released a book named ‘Suriyan Maraivadhillai’ (Sun doesn’t fade away).
Among the host of top political leaders who attended the mega event were Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Andhra Pradesh CM N Chandrababu Naidu, Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy, besides other DMK leaders, actors and industrialists. Actor Rajinikanth, who had announced to form a party but is yet to launch one, also attended the mega event. Former Union minister Shatrughan Sinha was also present at the event.
Speaking on the occasion, Sonia said, “It is my earnest desire that the mutual support of our parties to each other must remain strong and steadfast as when Karunanidhi ji was guiding us…and as we wage together a battle with the political forces that are determined to destroy our constitutional values, our institutions and the idea of India as you know it,” in an apparent reference to BJP.
“Let the message go to the people of Tamil Nadu and the country that we are united and determined to protect and preserve our country’s constitution and its values that has built and sustained India over the last 70 years,” she added.
Emphasising the need to defeat the BJP next year, Rahul said, “While Karunanidhi ji had defended the institutions of this country, today we have a government that is attacking the voice, culture and the institutions of Tamil Nadu and the rest of the country. In memory of Karunanidhi ji, all voices in India are going to get together and defeat BJP in the next election.”
He added, “We aren’t going to allow the destruction of the idea of India, the destructions of our institutions, the Supreme Court, the Reserve Bank of India and the Election Commission. We are going to stand together and do this (defeat BJP).”
Proposing Rahul’s name as prime minister candidate for 2019, Stalin said, “Under the rule of PM Modi in the last five years, the country has gone 15 years back. If we give another chance to him, surely the country will go back to what it was 50 years ago. PM Modi is behaving like a king, that is why we have all come together to safeguard our democracy and our country.”
He added, “In 2018, on the occasion of unveiling Thalaivar Kalaignar statue, I propose, we will install a new prime minister in Delhi. We will build a new India, as the Son of Thalaivar Kalaignar, I propose the candidature of Rahul Gandhi from Tamil Nadu.”
“Rahul has got the ability to defeat the ‘Fascist Nazist’ Modi government. I appeal to all my respected party leaders on the dais. We will strengthen the hands of Rahul Gandhi. We will save this nation,” Stalin said.
Reiterating Stalin, Narayanasamy said, “Rahul Gandhi will be a tough opponent for PM Modi. In the upcoming elections, Stalin will bring the change here and Rahul will do that at the Centre. The present Tamil Nadu government doesn’t have any plan to felicitate Kalaingar.”
Today’s event had been dubbed as another opportunity to bring together opposition leaders on a single platform to give shape to a possible anti-BJP alliance ahead of the 2019 elections.
The reunion also comes days after the Congress wrested power from the BJP in the Hindi heartland — Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh — which has bolstered the prospects of an anti-BJP front. The opposition parties had also held a grand meeting in New Delhi on December 10, a day before the election results were announced.
A meeting of the leaders is expected to take place in YMCA at Royapettah later in the evening. M Karunanidhi had passed away on August 7 at Kaveri Hospital in Chennai following a prolonged illness. He was 94.