Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M K Stalin on Sunday made a strong pitch for Congress chief Rahul Gandhi as the prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, saying the Gandhi scion had the ability to defeat the "fascist" Narendra Modi government.
Stalin's plea is in line with the tradition of his late father M Karunanidhi who had earlier invited Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi for leadership roles.
The DMK president was speaking at a rally attended by chief ministers of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, N Chandrababu Naidu and Pinarayi Vijayan, respectively.
Incidentally, Naidu, post his split with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance earlier this year, is attempting to cobble up a mega coalition of anti-BJP front for the next parliamentary elections.
Stalin recalled that Karunanidhi had in 1980 declared "Welcome daughter of Pandit Nehru. Give a Stable Regime" while extending support to the late Indira Gandhi. Similarly, he had made an invitation to Sonia Gandhi in 2004, saying "Welcome daughter-in-law of Indira Gandhi, India's daughter should Win".
"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," Stalin said.
The rally followed the unveiling of a bronze statue of Karunanidhi at the DMK headquarters in Anna Arivalayam.
Congress Parliamentary Party chairperson Sonia Gandhi and party president Rahul Gandhi were also in attendance at the event.
"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 added.
At the event, Sonia Gandhi hit out at the BJP for being determined to destroy constitutional values, and sought "steadfast and strong ties" between her party and the DMK to trounce the saffron party in the next year's Lok Sabha elections.
Sonia, who unveiled a statue of Karunanidhi, heaped praise on the late leader.
"Karunanidhi was a democrat to the core and a believer in parliamentary institutions," she said, adding her party will always remember his support to former prime minister Indira Gandhi in 1971 and 1980 towards Indira's bank nationalisation and abolition of privy purses initiatives.
''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,'' she said in an apparent reference to the BJP.
Gandhi said the message of unity among the Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) should go to the people.
"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 asserted.
Recalling her association with Karunanidhi, the Congress leader said the late patriarch was a great support and strength for the UPA from 2004 to 2014.
''I personally remember that we looked up to his knowledge and experience to guide our coalition government," she said.
Gandhi lauded Karunanidhi for his service to the people, his literary passion, love for Tamil language and his powerful oratory
Congress president Rahul Gandhi also lashed out at the Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre saying he will not allow "destruction" of institutions of the country like the Supreme Court and the Reserve Bank of India.
The BJP government believes "only one idea should run India", Gandhi alleged.
Training his guns on the Narendra Modi government, Gandhi accused it of targeting institutions of the country, besides the culture of India.
"We are not going to allow the destruction of the idea of India. We are not going to allow the destruction of institutions, the supreme Court, Reserve Bank of India, Election Commission of India," he said.
"And we are going to stand together and do this," he added.
He said that in the memory of Karunanidhi, and out of respect for Tamil language, its culture and tradition, "everybody in India is going to get together."
"..... all voices in India are going to get together and defeat the BJP in the next elections" he said.