It was a function organised by the Madurai Divisional Railway on Saturday to mark the inaugural run of Silambu Express, the first-ever express train to originate from Manamadurai.
Two Union Ministers – sons of Sivaganga district, more particularly, Sivaganga Parliamentary constituency, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram and Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry E.M. Sudarasana Natchiappan – were to flag off the train service between Manamadurai and Chennai Egmore Railway stations.
The train rake, with brand new coaches, was decorated with banana plants and colourful festoons. Scores of Congress cadre had arrived at the railway station late in the evening.
While the flagging off ceremony was scheduled at 8.15 p.m., Dr. Natchiappan, who was recently inducted into the Union Cabinet, arrived at around 7.40 p.m. He was received by a boisterous group of Congress cadre.
During an informal chat, Dr. Natchiappan told reporters that he would speak about some of the important aspects on industrialisation of the southern districts while addressing the meeting organised to flag off the new train.
As Mr. Chidambaram arrived at the station, all the dignitaries, Divisional Railway Manager A.K. Rastogi and Additional DRM V. Ajith Kumar, occupied the chairs on the dais put up on the railway platform at around 8 p.m.
The crowd, including railway union members, were eagerly waiting to listen to the Ministers. The meeting assumed more significance since it was the first public meeting in which Dr. Natchiappan was to address the gathering as a Union Minister.
However, the Ministers were seen talking either to the railway officials or to the Congress cadre who were standing below the dais. The cadre seated in the last rows did not know what was happening. As time passed, suddenly there was an announcement on the public address system that the Ministers would flag off the train.
Once the ceremony was over, the Ministers left the station without addressing the gathering, disappointing mainly the Congress cadre, including women.