Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam chief MK Stalin on Tuesday defended proposing Congress President Rahul Gandhi for the post of prime minister after Opposition leaders objected to it, saying the decision will be taken after the Lok Sabha elections.

“Projecting Rahul Gandhi for PM is the right thing to unite secular forces,” Stalin said in a statement, according to NDTV. “Rahul [Gandhi] was responsible for Congress victory in the three BJP bastions. We require a strong leadership to coordinate democratic forces. That’s why I have proposed Rahul’s name. I am confident our allies would understand.”

Stalin said Gandhi’s hands should be strengthened to “extricate” India from communalism and establish democracy, according to News18.

The DMK chief had made the announcement at a public meeting on Sunday after unveiling a statue of his party’s former chief, his father M Karunanidhi, in Chennai. United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress President Rahul Gandhi and Telugu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu were among those present at the event. The DMK is a member of the Congress-led UPA.

A day later, leaders of Opposition parties had said a decision on the prime ministerial candidate can be taken only after the elections. A Telugu Desam Party official said Naidu was “taken aback” by Stalin’s declaration.

“Any announcement on the PM candidate right now would be premature as it would divide the Opposition camp,” PTI had quoted a senior Trinamool Congress leader as saying.