Several leaders want a share in power for the party in Tamil Nadu
: Several Congress leaders utilised the birth centenary celebration of the former Minister, P. Kakkan, here on Saturday to pitch for a share in power for the party in Tamil Nadu.
While former Union Minister, E.V.K.S. Elangovan, was vociferous on the issue, Union Minister for Shipping, G.K. Vasan, said that the party could not continue to be a mere force that determined the victory of the Dravidian parties. Union Home Minister, P. Chidambaram, who did not speak on the issue, appealed to the Dalits to join the Congress to achieve their objective.
Mr. Elangovan said that the Congress lost power in the State only because it failed to propagate its good work when it was in power.
He wished he too joined the crowd, instead of occupying a seat on the dais, for he would get an opportunity to openly express his wishes on alliance issues. He was referring to the crowd that booed the Theni MP, J.M. Aaroon, when he said that the Congress would continue its ties with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
“The Tamil Nadu Congress leaders will follow the directions of the party high command in every issue. But, leaders like the Union Ministers and TNCC president K. V. Thangkabalu should convey the cadres' wishes to the leaders (in New Delhi),” he said. He said that the Congress leaders were finding fault with the ruling DMK when it went wrong only because it had the responsibility to correct it as an ally. “The Congress which fought and achieved independence for the country had an equal responsibility to protect it too,” he said. Mr. Vasan said that the party could not continue to be a determining force for the allies. “This should change in the coming days. It should grow as the leading force in the State,” he said. He listed out various new initiatives taken by the Congress for the welfare of the Dalits. “The United Progressive Alliance government is functioning as a shield to protect the Dalits,” he said.
Mr. Chidambaram said that great Dalit leaders in the country had made it big only when they were with the Congress. He said that B.R. Ambedkar was able to frame the Constitution of the country only when he was in the Congress. So was the case with Babu Jagjivanram and Kakkan, he said. Mr. Chidambaram said that untouchability was still prevalent in Tamil Nadu. “Is there not two tumbler system here? Were there not walls dividing the Dalits from others?” he said adding “If this is the case with (a State like) Tamil Nadu, think of other (not so socially developed) States like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh,” he said.
He pointed out that caste Hindus had pulled their children out of schools where the noon meal workers belonged to oppressed class.
“The nine per cent growth rate, huge foreign exchange reserve and mere reservation for Dalits in Parliament cannot eradicate untouchability, unless there is change of heart among the people.”