As a host of leaders including Congress President Rahul Gandhi, UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Andhra Chief Minister and TDP President Chandrababu Naidu, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy watched on, DMK President MK Stalin, who had been lashing out at the BJP-led Centre in Tamil thus far, switched to English. Speaking in Chennai at the unveiling of his father - former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK leader M Karunanidhi, Stalin said, “In 1980, my leader Kalaignar declared, ‘welcome daughter of Pandit Nehru, give a stable regime.’ In 2004, my leader Kalaignar declared first, ‘welcome daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, India's daughter should win’.”
He continued, “In 2018, now in this dais, on the occasion of unveiling Thalaivar Kalaignar's statue, I propose we will install a new Prime Minister in Delhi, we build a new India. As son of Thalaivar Kalaignar, I propose the candidature of Rahul Gandhi from Tamil Nadu. Welcome Rahul Gandhi, give the nation good governance. Rahul has got the ability to defeat the fascist, Nazist Modi government. I appeal to my respected all party leaders on the dais, we will strengthen the hands of Rahul Gandhi, we will save this nation.” As DMK and Congress cadre in the audience clapped and whistled at Stalin’s bold declaration, opposition leaders elsewhere were far from happy.
Citing sources, an NDTV report stated that TDP’s Chandrababu Naidu who was present when Stalin made his speech, was among the parties that that were not on board with Stalin’s suggestion. The others include Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, Mamata Banerjee, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress, Farooq Abdullah's National Conference, Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal and the CPI(M).
While TDP's Lanka Dinakar told the channel that the Prime Ministerial candidate will be elected post the 2019 Lok Sabha Election, PTI quoted a top opposition leader, who said, "A number of opposition leaders are understood to have reservations against naming anyone as the prime ministerial face. The SP, TDP, BSP, TMC, and NCP disagree with Stalin's announcement. It is premature. The PM name is to be decided only after the Lok Sabha results.”
So did Stalin jump the gun in declaring his support for Rahul Gandhi, given that the Lok Sabha Elections are six months away? A source in the Stalin camp points out that the reason the others in the Opposition Front have not warmed up to the DMK leader’s idea is because everyone has their own agenda. Explaining the rationale behind Stalin’s move, the source said, “This was to strengthen the Congress’ hand. Stalin felt that if the head is not strong, each will pull in their own direction.” Stalin’s proposal, however, was not done in consultation with other leaders on dais, added the source.
Another source in the DMK argues that Stalin’s declaration is in fact an eventuality that regional leaders will have to accept. “Nobody in the Opposition front except for Mayawati has a choice. Stalin’s idea is you may keep putting off the announcement of Rahul Gandhi as a leader but it is an eventuality. Congress will have to lead the front and Rahul Gandhi is its leader. Why keep postponing it? If let's say the Congress by itself can win more than 100 seats and the DMK can win 30 or more, Stalin's support has already given the Congress a headstart.”