KERALA

Sonia meets Congress leaders

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, NOV. 29 . The Congress president, Sonia Gandhi, spent some time today with Congress leaders at the Thiruvananthapuram airport on her way to Mauritius.

Ms. Gandhi arrived at 1.15 p.m. and left at 2 p.m. for Mauritius.

She was received at the airport tarmac by the former Chief Minister A.K. Antony, the KPCC president, Thennala Balakrishna Pillai, the UDF convener, P.P. Thankachan, the AICC secretary and CWC member, Ramesh Chennithala, the former AICC general secretary Vayalar Ravi and the the Finance Minister, Vakkom Purushothaman.

Even though the Congress leaders were looking forward to some kind of discussion on Kerala issues, the meeting turned out to be a mere formality, with Ms. Gandhi restricting herself to pleasantries and brief observations on value-added tax, development initiatives on the part of Kerala and on the need to start direct flights to Mauritius and London.

She preferred to meet all the Congress leaders together rather than confining to one to one meeting.

Even Mr. Antony and Mr. Pillai could not meet the Congress president individually. The KPCC office-bearers, including Mullapally Ramachandran, along with 17 other Congress leaders formed part of the special group that was allowed to meet her.

The Chief Minister, Oommen Chandy and a few of his Cabinet colleagues were not present. The Chief Minister was in Kozhikode in connection with his mass contact programme.

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