Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: While ruling out senior positions for cine stars who gain lateral entry into the party, All-India Congress Committee secretary Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said that anyone who wanted to join the party and the Youth Congress were welcome as long as they were not “terrorists or fundamentalists.”

Actor Vijay had met Mr. Gandhi in New Delhi some time ago amid reports that the Congress was planning to rejuvenate the organisation using film stars.

On the “open system” for entry into the Congress, Mr. Gandhi said: “When we started this process, Mr. Vijay expressed an interest in understanding the process… and we explained our process to him.”

Speaking to presspersons, Mr. Gandhi said, “Anybody who wants to come into our system is more than welcome to come. As long as the person is not a criminal, and I don’t think Mr. Rajinikant is a criminal, he is more than welcome to come.” The Congress did not create any roadblocks; however, the party was not reaching out to any particular person, he said.

Sri Lankan Tamils issue

Denying the allegation that the Centre had not done anything to mitigate the sufferings of Tamils in Sri Lanka, Mr. Gandhi said: “India is applying massive pressure on Sri Lanka to protect the rights of Tamils affected by the ethnic strife. It had sent two senior functionaries, including the then Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, to Colombo to talk to Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. The Centre would do everything to protect the rights of Tamils,” he said. Moreover, his family, right from his grandmother Indira Gandhi and father Rajiv Gandhi, had deep sentiments for Tamils, not only in Sri Lanka but across the world, he said.

He said his three-day visit to the State was to monitor elections to various posts in the Youth Congress. Whether the party would go it alone in the next Assembly elections and issues regarding sharing of power with the DMK would have to be decided only by the high command .

Mr. Gandhi said he was overwhelmed by the response from the youth for elections to various posts in the Youth Congress. He made it clear that it would be a shallow idea to follow the Uttar Pradesh model, where the party successfully contested independently in the last general elections, as issues differed from one State to another. In the case of Uttar Pradesh, the party considered various options and finally decided to go it alone. That could not be a standard formula for all States, he added.

Stating that factionalism in the Congress in Tamil Nadu was not a major issue, he said it existed in all parties and in all States.

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