Dropping hints that Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu could possibly be the opposition choice for the Prime Minister's post to replace Narendra Modi, JD(S) supremo HD Deve Gowda Monday said the country was looking towards the TDP president's leadership.
When the country was at such a critical juncture, Mr Naidu has "accepted the challenge" and "why cannot he become the PM of the country," Deve Gowda asked.
The JD (S) leader addressed two election rallies at Tiruvuru and Pamarru in Krishna district this evening in support of the Telugu Desam Party for the April 11 general elections in the State.
The former prime minister started his address at the first rally in Tiruvuru referring to TDP chief Naidu as "honourable Prime Minister" and then corrected it to "would-be Prime Minister."
Quick in his reaction, Mr Naidu said, "I am not an aspirant for any post."
Another anti-BJP ally, DMK chief MK Stalin had last month stuck to his Rahul Gandhi for PM pitch during an UPA election rally in Chennai, saying the Congress chief would assume the top office within a few weeks.
Mr Stalin, incidentally, had proposed Mr Gandhi as the Prime Ministerial candidate of the opposition alliance at a function in Chennai in December last year where Karunanidhi's statue was unveiled.
However, the proposal had drawn lukewarm response from several other opposition leaders who were not keen on naming prime ministerial candidate before the polls itself.
Noting that the country was today facing several challenges as "all democratic institutions have been demolished," Deve Gowda said a debate has been going on in the media on who could challenge PM Modi.
"Who is going to challenge Modi is an issue. That has been going on in the media. Naidu is the person taking up the challenge saying "I am only the person, I can challenge," Mr Gowda said.
"Naidu has taken the lead to fight Modi's undemocratic ways of destroying democratic institutions," he said. At the same time, Deve Gowda observed that there we re several leaders who could challenge PM Modi.
Referring to PM Modi's criticism of opposition alliances, Deve Gowda asserted that coalition governments also could give sufficient progress, so far as development was concerned. "Every state has provided such strong leadership.
In the south there is Chandrababu Naidu, West Bengal Mamata Banerjee, UP Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav...like this all the regional leaders have come together to give an alternative force meant to challenge Narendra Modi.
PM Modi says stability of such groupings is a question mark but credit should go to Chandrababu Naidu for uniting all such leaders to challenge Modi," Deve Gowda said.
Mr Naidu has taken the lead to consolidate all secular regional parties and given a challenge to PM Modi.
"It is not so simple to consolidate all the regional parties which have got their own ideology.... It is nothing new," Deve Gowda remarked, recalling the then NDA government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his own United Front government.
"When Vajpayee was PM, he formed the government with 23 parties. Has he not fought the battle, the Kargil war? Has he not won the war?
Now PM Modi says he is the only one who can challenge if there is any attack by Pakistan or neighbouring countries. That is a type of false impression he is going to give," Deve Gowda said.
The JD(S) supremo recalled his regime wherein he headed a 13-party coalition government at the Centre.
"What was the situation in Jammu and Kashmir then? For 10 years, no PM went there. I visited five times and brought peace.
We conducted election, invited Farooq Abdullah. Brought him back from London. Election was held, a clear majority was given to National Conference at that time," he said.
Similarly, no Prime Minister visited north-eastern states, Deve Gowda said.
"I took seven days to go and study the situation. Naga..people were fighting. Two Naga leaders were in Geneva. I personally met them and persuaded them for a ceasefire.
Asked them to come back to India but they came to Myanmar. We tried to negotiate and bring peace. I can give several such instances," the former PM added.
He also referred to several welfare schemes like Rs 2 a kilo rice and wheat, Rs 3 kerosene that benefited 35 crore people living below the poverty line.
He also said the women reservation Bill was moved in Parliament during his tenure. "But what has happened, nothing has happened," Deve Gowda lamented.
Lashing out at PM Modi, Deve Gowda said there was an undeclared Emergency in the country "though there is no Emergency."
"He is trying to destroy freedom of the Press and also destroy forces opposing him. In every state the regional leadership, he wants to demolish.I have been watching Modi's performance in Parliament for the last five years.
He declared there would be no corruption in the country... clean elections, so many programmes... Make in India, Start-up India, Digital India..end result is, farmers are committing suicide, there is no employment, youths are suffering. He has managed the entire media in the country. All his lapses are covered up by the media," Deve Gowda said.