TAMIL NADU

Stalin supporter withdraws under pressure

Tirunelveli May 22. The ghastly murder of the former DMK Minister, T. Kiruttinan, seems to have had its impact down south, with the Tirunelveli organiser of the party, V. Karuppasamy Pandian, a staunch supporter of the party youth wing leader, M.K. Stalin, today withdrawing from the election for the district secretary post, which is scheduled for May 27.

In a hastily arranged press conference at his office, a visibly upset Mr. Pandian said: ``In pursuance of the direction of the high command, I am pulling out of the race. But I, as a trustworthy cadre of the DMK, will continue to work for the welfare of the party.''

Stunned by the former MLA's announcement, there was a stoic silence among his supporters, who, later told reporters that the strategy being adopted by the high command would only promote a sectarian attitude in the party, instead of weeding it out.

Sources close to Mr. Pandian admitted that he was shattered after a telephonic conversation with the party leadership, as all his efforts to achieve the immediate goal were thwarted in a moment. ``He was actually prepared to quit active politics, but was forced to take it back as his well-wishers exerted pressure to abandon the idea. This should not be seen as a victory for supporters of M. K. Azhagiri, but a warning signal to the high command,'' said a party office-bearer.

The decision taken by Mr. Pandian, who joined the DMK along with the former AIADMK Minister, Raghupathi, has sent shock waves in the party circles as the trusted lieutenant of Mr. Stalin was expected to record a comfortable win in the election.

``The high command's direction has explicitly proved that the DMK president himself wants to see supporters of Mr. Azhagiri, in the key party positions. However, the factionalism being fostered by the high command will only weaken the party across the State,'' said a DMK councillor.

With Mr. Pandian withdrawing, the Palayamkottai MLA, T.P.M. Maideen Khan, who was all set to contest the election for the post of town secretary, has also reportedly decided not to contest.

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