TAMIL NADU

Choose between us and Jayalalithaa misrule: Cong.

Chennai Jan. 25 . The Congress today asked DMK men in Sattankulam to choose between voting for the "Jayalalithaa misrule" and its Congress candidate, but decided to refrain from making an open plea "now" for DMK backing.

After a meeting of senior Congress functionaries, in which a pro-AIADMK section including the MLA, D. Yasodha, criticised the TNCC working president, E.V.K.S. Elangovan's recent open call to the DMK, the party decided not to make a public appeal to the BJP ally. Nonetheless, the Congress would call upon all secular forces to back its candidate.

"The Congress will go it alone. But we will seek the support of all secular forces opposed to the misrule of the BJP at the Centre and the Jayalalithaa Government in Tamil Nadu," the AICC Secretary, Naresh Rawal, central observer for today's meeting, told the media.

Asked whether the party would make a plea for the backing of the DMK, he said, "We will not seek its support now. But the DMK cadres have to choose between the AIADMK and the Congress."

However, he said, the poll outcome would change the political situation in Tamil Nadu.

On Mr. Elangovan's earlier statement that he would meet the DMK chief, M. Karunanidhi, if necessary to seek his support, Mr. Rawal said, party leaders would have their individual views but today's executive "unitedly" decided to seek the support of all secular forces.

Asked whether the Congress high command viewed the DMK as secular, he said: "It is for the DMK to decide whether it is secular."

Earlier, at the meeting, while most of the Congress functionaries wanted that the party to seek DMK support, the party's deputy leader in the legislature was said to have vociferously opposed the pro-DMK leanings.

"Will you also support the killers of Rajiv Gandhi," she asked. However, she was shouted down by most of the senior leaders, who said the Congress chances in Sattankulam should not be ruined by petty inner-party rivalry.

Elangovan spared

However, Mr. Elangovan did not come under fierce flak, as was anticipated earlier, for two reasons. One: the AICC secretary, Ramesh Chennithala, who was in Chennai yesterday, categorically told the TNCC president, S. Balakrishnan, that he should work unitedly with Mr. Elangovan.

Mr. Chennithala was also said to have faulted him for convening the emergency meeting without consulting Mr. Elangovan.

Two: the pro-DMK functionaries clearly outnumbered the AIADMK sympathisers in the party.

Interestingly, a meeting of the pro-Elangovan functionaries, including a few former TMC men met at the residence of former Union Minister, Jayanthi Natarajan, to counter a possible offensive at today's executive, also put a check on the pro-AIADMK section.

But the confusing signals and inner-party rivalry could well impair the Congress chances in the election, fear a majority of the functionaries. Unless the party puts its house in order, it will have little hope of pulling off a coup in Sattankulam, they say.