Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin on Sunday proposed the name of Congress President Rahul Gandhi for the post of prime minister after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Stalin was speaking at the unveiling of a statue of his party’s former chief and his father M Karunanidhi in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai.

“I propose we will install a new Prime Minister in Delhi,” ANI quoted Stalin as saying. “I propose the candidature of Rahul Gandhi from Tamil Nadu. He has got the ability to defeat the fascist Modi government.”

“In the five years of PM Modi’s rule, the country has gone 15 years back,” Stalin said. “If we give another chance to him, surely the country will go 50 years back. PM Modi is behaving like a king, that’s why we’ve all come together to safeguard democracy [and] country.”

United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and the chief ministers of Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry Pinarayi Vijayan, N Chandrababu Naidu and V Narayanasamy took part in the event at the DMK headquarters. Actor Rajinikanth and BJP leader Shatrughan Sinha were also present at the event.

Most of these leaders have earlier met as part of attempts to form a grand alliance to take on the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. They last met in New Delhi on Monday.

Sonia Gandhi inaugurated the nine-foot bronze statue placed next to a statue of the party’s founder and former chief minister CN Annadurai, The Indian Express reported. Sonia Gandhi also released a book Suriyan Maraivadhillai [“Sun doesn’t fade away”] and paid tributes to Karunanidhi at his memorial on Marina Beach.

“It’s my desire that mutual support of our parties to each other remain strong as when Karunanidhi ji was guiding us, as we wage together a battle with political forces that are determined to destroy our constitutional values [and] the idea of India as we know it,” Sonia Gandhi said, according to ANI.

Rahul Gandhi criticised the BJP government, saying it attacked the culture and institutions of Tamil Nadu and the country. “In memory of Karunanidhi ji, all voices in India are going to get together [and] defeat BJP in next election,” he said. “We are not going to allow the destruction of the idea of India, the destruction of our institutions, the Supreme Court, the RBI, the EC [Election Commission]. And we are going to stand together and do this.”

Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu said government institutions have been destroyed under the BJP government. “Federalism is destroyed,” Naidu said. “They are misusing CBI. It’s a premier institution for corruption control, now it’s meddled in corruption itself,” he said, adding that the RBI governor has resigned, while the CBI chief has been removed.

On the Rafale deal verdict in the Supreme Court, Naidu said the government filed the wrong affidavit. “Governors are misusing powers in Goa, Nagaland, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka [and] other states,” he said.