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Groupism-hit State Cong. still out of AICC radar

By V. Jayanth

CHENNAI Sept. 29. Now that the Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, has finally agreed to visit Chennai, there seems to be some cheer among party workers. She has agreed to visit here on October 10, for an official function at the Rajiv Gandhi memorial at Sriperumbudur. Though it will not be a party show, Congress volunteers are expected to utilise the opportunity to make their presence felt on the occasion.

For more than a year, the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee has been trying to get Ms. Gandhi to participate in one of the major functions in the State to provide a morale booster to the cadres. From the time the Tamil Maanila Congress merged with the parent Congress and then for the Kamaraj centenary celebrations, the State leaders tried their best to get Ms. Gandhi to attend a function — either in Chennai or at Virudhunagar or Madurai. But the idea did not work out.

As Tamil Nadu is not in electoral focus right now, the AICC may not have accorded prime importance to it, party sources here say. But they concede that it is the factional feuds in the TNCC which have irked the leadership, and unless the State unit unites under some leadership, there may be no motivation for the AICC to step up attention on Tamil Nadu.

Even now, the rival factions are trying to take their fight to New Delhi for effecting another change in the State leadership. There were leaks to the media a week ago that a change in the TNCC leadership was imminent and that a new president could take over before the Sonia Gandhi visit.

But party functionaries now say the change of guard has been put off, at least for now, until the membership drive is completed by December.

Groupism has been the bane of the TNCC for decades and it has contributed to the decline of the Congress in the State, party seniors admit. They say that from the day a TNCC president is appointed by the AICC, dissidence begins and a campaign for change gets under way. No State leader has been able to stabilise his position to start building the party.

According to some members of the TNCC executive, the situation has been bad enough with two presidents — S. Balakrishnan as president and E.V.K.S. Elangovan as working president. But, of late, the two have managed to hammer out a ``working relationship'' to carry on party work. However, when the two agreed to work together, another faction stepped up the campaign to replace the ``dual leadership'' with a single, effective leader.

So much so, today the TNCC, like Indian cricket teams of the past, abounds in former `captains', most of them leading a faction. Even the TMC, which merged with the Congress, now functions under different groups. And when it comes to clinching an alliance with one or the other of the Dravidian parties here, the TNCC is vertically split — one wanting to move closer to the DMK and the other determined to make up with the AIADMK. Those who want the party to go it alone are told that the priority must be to win a few seats and therefore an electoral understanding is imperative.

Parliamentary elections are due next year and the Congress will have to decide on its future course in Tamil Nadu. Party leaders here say Ms. Gandhi may effect a change in the State leadership, if need be, depending on the alliance strategy. With the Assembly elections in some of the northern States due in a couple of months, Tamil Nadu may continue to remain out of the radar for now.

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