DMK chief MK Stalin’s suggestion that Rahul Gandhi be the united opposition’s prime ministerial candidate had rattled many, including Mamata Banerjee, who has positioned herself at the forefront of the anti-BJP alliance, and Akhilesh Yadav, who recently stitched a partnership with Mayawati in UP looking straight through the Congress.

But when at a grand meeting of opposition leaders in Kolkata on Saturday, hosted by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, Mr Stalin restrained from repeating his endorsement of Rahul Gandhi, he was needled by the BJP.

Why couldn’t he say so in Kolkata? the BJP asked, claiming it exposed chinks in the proposed national alliance of the opposition parties.

“Last month, Stalin said Rahul Gandhi will be the prime ministerial candidate in Chennai. He could not say so in Kolkata. Such deviation showed his hesitancy and obstacles. These contradictions revealed the incohesion in the opposition unity,” BJP’s Tamil Nadu unit president Tamilisai Soundararajan told news agency PTI.

Mr Stalin, however, stands firm on his proposal.

“Yes, I did propose Rahul Gandhi’s name. What is wrong with it?” the son of M Karunanidhi said in Chennai today.

Opposition parties have maintained that the decision on the prime minister will be taken only after the national election.

“I had announced Rahul Gandhi’s name at a function organised by the DMK. This is what the people of Tamil Nadu want. The situation is different in other states. In West Bengal, they decided to finalise the name after the election. It is their wish,” Mr Stalin clarified.

MK Stalin has credited the Congress chief for the party’s victories in three heartland states and believes that “Rahul Gandhi has the ability to defeat the fascist Modi government and projecting him as the next prime minister is the right thing”.

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.

But West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had shot down the idea soon after. So did many others. “I am not alone (in the proposed alliance). We are working together. Whatever the political parties decide, we will accept that. Now is not the right time,” Ms Banerjee had said.

The Samajwadi Party 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,” SP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari said.


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