LEADING A show of Opposition strength featuring Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and the Chief Ministers of Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, DMK chief M K Stalin proposed the name of Rahul as the prime ministerial candidate for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections to take on what he called the “destructive governance” of the BJP-led NDA government.
Addressing a massive rally in Chennai to unveil the statue of his father, K Karunanidhi, Stalin recalled how the late DMK founder had “wholeheartedly welcomed” Indira Gandhi in 1980 and Sonia Gandhi in 2004 “to take crucial political positions”.
Inviting Rahul to take up the responsibility, Stalin said: “We will install a new Prime Minister in Delhi, and I propose the candidature of Rahul Gandhi from Tamil Nadu.” Asking Rahul to give the nation “good governance” and “defeat the fascist” NDA government, Stalin appealed to all Opposition parties to strengthen the hands of the Congress president and “save the nation”.
In Delhi, however, Stalin’s call caught many in the Opposition by surprise. Sources said that other parties, such as the SP, BSP, TMC and NCP, harbour reservations over declaring a PM candidate so early on. “Who will be the PM is a question we should answer after the Lok Sabha results are in,” said an Opposition leader.
They also argue that Rahul may have got a boost after his tri-state win but declaring him the PM candidate could play into the BJP’s hands as it has already packaged the 2019 contest as a Modi vs Rahul fight.
Stalin, meanwhile, attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi, accusing him of “destroying the country”, its institutions and Constitutional values. Claiming that Modi’s five-year regime has “taken India back 15 years”, Stalin said: “If he is elected again, India will go back 50 years.”
Stalin said: “He thinks he is an emperor. He considers himself as RBI. He considers himself as CBI, Income Tax. That is why we have joined together. This unity and fight is not only to send Modi back home but also to save India and the people of this country.”
Slamming Modi for not visiting Tamil Nadu to share the pain of victims of the recent cyclone, Stalin said: “Is Tamil Nadu so insignificant in Indian politics? When there was a mass shooting in US in June 2016, he was seen tweeting for the victims’ families. When there was a wildfire in Portugal in 2017, Modi did the same. But when Nagapattinam, Pudukottai and Thanjavur, places in India, were affected by the cyclone, he wouldn’t open his mouth… 21 parties have joined the anti-BJP coalition now… there are more to join, the country is going to watch that next.”
Addressing the gathering after unveiling Karunanidhi’s statue at the DMK headquarters, Sonia Gandhi said: “When we stand shoulder to shoulder in the memory of Karunanidhi, let the message go to the people of Tamil Nadu and the country be that we are united and determined to protect and preserve this country’s constitution, and constitutional values that sustained India for the past 70 years.”
Thanking Karunanidhi for showing him “the way forward”, Rahul said that Karunanidhi defended the voice of the people of Tamil Nadu and key institutions of the country. “Today, we have a government (at the Centre) that attacks the voice of people, culture and traditions of the people and key institutions, which is a government that believes that it doesn’t have to respect and heard different cultures, voices of the people,” he said.
“We are not going to allow the destruction of the idea of India. destruction of our institutions Supreme Court, Reserve Bank of India, Election Commission,” Rahul said.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan and his Andhra counterpart N Chandrababu Naidu also spoke at the event.