The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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PC inside or out, party can’t tell

New Delhi, Aug. 12: As the Congress prepares for next week’s AICC session in the capital, its Tamil Nadu leaders are puzzled by Union finance minister P. Chidambaram’s “unique” status in the party.

Chidambaram is on an AICC panel of six members entrusted with the job of drafting the party’s economic resolution for the August 21 meet. He is also part of an apex drafting committee that would give the final nod for the resolutions on economic, political, foreign and panchayati raj affairs for adoption at the session.

“The anomaly of the situation, however, is that Chidambaram is not even an AICC member from Tamil Nadu. His name does not figure on the revised list of AICC members from the state. Indeed, he is not even on the party rolls in the state. It is like a non-member deciding the party document,” said a senior leader from the state.

Last April, Chidambaram had turned down the Congress leadership’s proposal to merge his Congress Democratic Forum with the party, but eventually settled for an arrangement under which he contested the Lok Sabha polls on the Congress’ “hand” symbol while continuing to keep the identity of his separate outfit.

Sources said while filing his nomination papers, he had also submitted an “affidavit” saying he was a member of the Congress. His election from the Sivaganga constituency in the state has since been challenged in court by rivals on the basis of the affidavit.

A senior party functionary from Tamil Nadu said Chidambaram has attended meetings of the Congress parliamentary party as one of its members, but “neither has he formally joined the party nor has his forum merged with the party”.

Sources said the matter was brought to the notice of the central leadership but nothing had been done till now to remove the anomaly. While a section of the state leadership, presumably including state unit chief G.K. Vasan, is believed to have reservations about “formalising” the finance minister’s return to the Congress, sources said such reservations made no sense at this stage.

“We have a de facto situation of Chidambaram being a member of the party. His full rehabilitation in the party is a fait accompli whether we accept it or not. Why not then also make him a de jure member and end the anomaly'” asked a state leader.

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