The Congress is gearing up for its big show in Tiruchi on Saturday to commemorate the party's 125th year celebrations and the election of Sonia Gandhi as the party president for the fourth term. Former Union Minister and BJP national secretary S.Thirunavukkarasar and his supporters would formally join the Congress at the public meeting to be held here.

With the Assembly elections nearing, Congress office-bearers are sparing no effort to make the event a success. Coming after the AIADMK demonstration and the DMK public meeting here, the Congress meeting too is meant as a show of strength.

Party leaders, however, play down comparisons. But Union Shipping Minister G.K.Vasan said the meeting would be the political ground for the party to exhibit its strength in the context of the approaching Assembly elections.

Mr.Vasan and K.V.Thangkabalu, TNCC president, made a joint inspection of the arrangements at the venue here on Thursday. “Lakhs of party cadres will attend the meeting. Party cadres and people are looking forward to Ms.Gandhi's visit,” Mr.Vasan said.

Local Congress office-bearers are in upbeat mood. “There has been renewed interest among people to work for the Congress, especially after the infusion of fresh blood through the Youth Congress elections, and in the wake of the interest shown by party general secretary Rahul Gandhi in strengthening the party in Tamil Nadu,” a senior district office-bearer said.

For Mr.Thirunavukkarasar, who has had a long stint in public life for over three decades, the meeting would be of high political significance as he tries to establish himself in the party by exhibiting his support base. Mr.Thirunavukkarasar joined the Congress in November last year. But this meeting is to be the function where the merger of his supporters into the Congress will be formalised.

Speaking to The Hindu, Mr.Thirunavukkarasar said about one lakh of his supporters from various districts would join the party. Maintaining that he was feeling comfortable in the Congress, he asserted that he was above any group and the meeting would be a platform to dedicate himself for strengthening the party.

An ardent follower of former Chief Minister M.G.Ramachandran, Mr.Thirunavukkarasar was elected MLA six times and served as MP for two terms. After MGR's demise, he supported AIADMK general secretary Jayalalithaa for some time before floating his MGR ADMK.

In 2002, he merged his party, MGR-ADMK, with the BJP. In 2004, he did not contest the elections when the BJP fought the 2004 Lok Sabha elections in alliance with the AIADMK.

Later, he was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh. In the 2009 Lok Sabha elections, he contested from the Ramanathapuram constituency on a BJP ticket and secured the third place with 1,28,322 votes. He quit the BJP later stating that the party had not endeared itself to the people of the State.