Congress President Sonia Gandhi sought to project her organisation as the party of the future in Tamil Nadu, a state that has seen chief ministers from only the DMK and AIADMK since 1967.
Addressing a meeting to commemorate the 125th year of the Congress, Gandhi said: “We are in an alliance (with the DMK) and we respect it. But we must work to restore our distinctive identity and become a party of the future.” She welcomed former Union minister (in the NDA government) S. Thirunavukkarasar along with his supporters into the Congress.
Gandhi directed party workers to fan out to the villages and apprise the people of the Centre’s social welfare programmes.
Even as Gandhi began her 20-minute speech, some Congress workers shouted slogans demanding an end to the alliance with the DMK. While she spoke in English, she took pauses so that her speech could be translated into Tamil.
On her way to Tiruchi, Gandhi met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK supremo M. Karunandhi at Chennai airport. Karunanidhi told press persons the meeting was cordial.
In response to the question if the alliance with the Congress was discussed, he said: “There is no need to discuss the alliance. It is intact and will continue to be so.”
The debate on whether the Congress should continue with its role of being a second fiddle to either the DMK or AIADMK is live now, with the assembly polls in the state due next year. Some leaders met Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi to convince him the alliance with the DMK must end.