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Hero's welcome to Vaiko in south

By P. Sudhakar and S. Vijay Kumar

The MDMK general secretary, Vaiko, waving to party cadres at Tirumangalam in Madurai district on Saturday. — Photo: K. Ganesan

By P. Sudhakar and

S. Vijay Kumar

KALINGAPATTI (TIRUNELVELI DT.), FEB. 28. The Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam general secretary, Vaiko, today arrived at his birthplace to hero's welcome, after 577 days of incarceration in the Vellore prison in a POTA case. Residents of more than 25 villages around Kalingapatti gathered on a specially-prepared, 17-acre ground, north of Mr. Vaiko's ancestral house, to receive the son of the soil. The entire village was decked up for the ``historic occasion''.

When he reached the Chatrapatti junction, 3 km away from Kalingapatti, Mr. Vaiko was received with bursting of fireworks and traditional drumbeats, with caparisoned elephants in the vanguard. He was taken in a chariot from the Chatrapatti junction to the dais.

The stage was decorated like a fort and huge towers with ornamental bulbs were put up on either side. Cadres from all over the State gathered at Kalingapatti.

Though Mr. Vaiko was scheduled to reach his village in the evening, he was several hours behind as hundreds of cadres lined the road at several places from Madurai to Kalingapatti to greet their leader. Among those who eagerly awaited his arrival was his aged mother.

Reception in Madurai

Earlier in the morning, thousands of MDMK cadres and workers of alliance parties thronged the Madurai railway station to receive the former Sivakasi MP.

Mr. Vaiko garlanded the statues of national leaders in different parts of the city.

It was a whistle-stop tour as party functionaries organised receptions at several points on the Madurai-Virudhunagar stretch.

Amid drum-beating and bursting of crackers, the cadres garlanded Mr. Vaiko and joined his convoy en route.

He hoisted the party flag at Tirupparankunram and Tirunagar.

A large number of people gathered at Tirumangalam, where Mr. Vaiko made a controversial speech on June 29, 2002, leading to his arrest under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. Though the elated party workers expected him to address them, he just waved at them, acknowledging their cheers and left the town.

Road traffic on National Highway 7 was disrupted briefly and vehicles were diverted at some places.

Earlier, addressing presspersons, Mr. Vaiko, said his party would not be part of any Central Government. For, the MDMK had to make many compromises when it was part of the National Democratic Alliance Government.

The general council took this decision and there was no question of reconsidering it.

Accusing the Chief Minister, Jayalalithaa, of pursuing an ``autocratic'' governance, which affected several sections, including weavers, minorities, farmers and the media, he said the AIADMK regime was the ``darkest period'' in the political history of Tamil Nadu.

The ban imposed on animal sacrifice had hurt the religious sentiments of the people. ``The traditions of the people have to be respected and preserved. The sudden lifting of the ban was only a poll gimmick,'' he said and alleged that the AIADMK had spent crores to add bogus names in the voter list.

`Vajpayee has lost credibility'

Mr. Vaiko said the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, had lost credibility among the people as he took sides to encourage anti-secular forces. ``I will not spare Mr. Vajpayee in the political arena, though I have high regards for him as a leader.''

Criticising the `India Shining' campaign of the Centre, he said such publicity should not be made at the cost of taxpayers' money. ``Development has, no doubt, been there like in any other developing country.''

Asserting that differences between the MDMK and the Congress were never an issue, Mr. Vaiko said a consensus on the prime ministerial candidate would be arrived at without hitch. Mr. Vaiko endorsed the view of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president, M. Karunanidhi, that the post of Governor should be scrapped.

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