- "Our party is committed to installing Rahul Gandhi as PM": HD Kumaraswamy
- He had recently backed Mamata Banerjee as PM candidate
- Mr Kumaraswamy said Rahul Gandhi is mature, PM Modi is a "paper tiger"
As opposition parties confront the question of "who will be prime ministerial candidate", one key player says his party's mission remains to see Rahul Gandhi in the top post after the national election due by May. Karnataka Chief Minister HD Kumaraswamy says his Janata Dal Secular will work towards that goal, even though he had recently said Mamata Banerjee is an able candidate.
"My part's decision is we want to support Rahul Gandhi as prime ministerial candidate. This is our commitment and it remains so," said Mr Kumaraswamy, who heads a coalition government with the Congress in Karnataka.
Mr Kumaraswamy said his father, former prime minister HD Deve Gowda, also believed in it.
In an exclusive interview to NDTV, he clarified that the comments were taken out of context.
"I said among regional parties, there are several able leaders there, other than the BJP. Why not Mayawati, Mamata Banerjee... But our party is committed to installing Rahul Gandhi as prime minister," he said.
On doubts and sarcasm surrounding Rahul Gandhi's credentials for the top post, and whether he can take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Mr Kumaraswamy said: "I have confidence he can take on PM Modi."
PM Modi was "only a paper tiger", he said, and Rahul Gandhi had matured as a politician.
"Modi-ji speaks well, his presentation is good, he uses social media but what is his achievement in the last four years," Mr Kumaraswamy said.
Mr Kumaraswamy was among the leaders who starred in Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's 23-party opposition unity rally on Sunday. At the mega meeting at Kolkata's Brigade Ground, opposition leaders resolved to take on the BJP and PM Modi together, saying the current government was past its sell-by date.
DMK leader MK Stalin, who has made a strong pitch for Rahul Gandhi as PM candidate, was silent on the subject at the opposition rally.
The obvious leadership dilemma of any grand opposition coalition had BJP president Amit Shah commenting that Mamata Banerjee's unity show had "23 parties and nine PM candidates".
The Congress has said it will not project its chief Rahul Gandhi for the top post and will respect the wishes of its coalition partners if the BJP is defeated in the national election.