Tributes paid to Chellapandian at the centenary celebrations of the Congress leader and former Speaker

Voicing concern over the state of the Congress in Tamil Nadu, which has been out of power for 45 years, Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram on Sunday suggested that having a youthful leadership at various levels would help rejuvenate the party.

He said while the Congress in other States could alternately assume the role of opposition and ruling party, it has remained in the opposition in Tamil Nadu ever since it was dislodged from power in 1967.

“Congressmen in our State are yearning to make it a ruling party just as in other States, but we are not able to achieve it. It is not the fault of the leaders who safeguarded the party organisation, but our fault. We have not sought a new leadership,” he said while participating in the centenary celebrations of Congress leader and former State Assembly Speaker S. Chellapandian.

Mr. Chidambaram, who shared the dais with Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan and TNCC president B.S. Gnanadesikan, wanted appointment of youngsters as office-bearers at district, taluk and panchayat levels, saying such an arrangement alone would infuse life into the party organisation.

Pointing out that he had accepted the leadership of Sonia Gandhi, his peer, and Rahul Gandhi, who is many years younger to him, Mr Chidambaram said there was a need to accept youngsters as leaders.

“Though everyone is mentally prepared to accept the leadership of youngsters, there is a mental block when it comes to implementing the wish.’’

To drive home the point, he reminded Congressmen of the fact that Chellapandian, who functioned under Kamaraj, had no hesitation in accepting G.K. Moopanar’s leadership though he was many years younger to him.

Mr Chidambaram said that Chellapandian followed a set of values and principles in politics and also in the legal profession that were very difficult to follow in today’s world.

“When he was the Speaker, he expressed inability to attend a feast organised by the Governor in honour of the AICC president who was on a visit to Chennai. If a Speaker today follows the same norm, he may not remain in the post,” he said.

Union Minister of State for Environment and Forest Jayanthi Natarajan said Chellapandian was a loyal Congressman.

“He even asked his son-in-law Ratnavel Pandian, a DMK candidate, not to visit his house till the Assembly elections were over,” she said.

She also recalled that he did not allow factionalism to come in the way of the party’s interest during elections. “He had differences of opinion with K.T. Kosalram, but they worked together and ensured the party’s victory in all 18 constituencies in Tirunelveli district.”

Mr Gnanadesikan said the party would organise centenary celebrations in Tirunelveli, the native district of Chellapandian.