The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress gears to get aggressive with Jaya

Chennai, Oct. 23: Buoyed by its Jammu and Kashmir performance, the Congress is warming up to go on the front foot in Tamil Nadu.

At its first legislature party meeting since the Madurai reunion with the Tamil Maanila Congress, AICC secretary Ramesh Chennithala indicated that the Congress intended to reposition itself as a more “aggressive” Opposition to Jayalalithaa.

The Congress has been getting increasingly militant since the Tamil Nadu chief minister targeted Sonia’s foreign roots. Chennithala said the Congress had decided to go all out against the ADMK for its recent “anti-people” measures, including hiking the price of PDS rice and the Ordinance to ban forcible conversions.

Yesterday’s meeting was called to sound party legislators and senior officials on who should head the new legislature party. Party sources indicated that the tough talking S.R. Balasubramoniyan, who headed the TMC before the merger, would lead the Congress as well.

The formal announcement has, however, been left to Congress president Sonia Gandhi. With the Assembly due to meet for the monsoon session from Thursday, the announcement is likely to be made in Delhi tomorrow.

Sonia had recently appointed former TMC legislator S. Balakrishnan to head the new-look state unit but retained former PCC chief E.V.K.S. Elangovan as its working president in what was touted as an “experiment”. Sources said Elangovan managed a moral victory against those trying to ease him out as Sonia appreciated his performance.

But the original Congress camp is disappointed that most plum posts have been given to erstwhile TMC functionaries of late. While Balakrishnan was appointed TNCC president, former TMC chief G.K. Vasan was made AICC secretary and even given a Rajya Sabha seat.

The Elangovan camp had initially backed Balasubramoniyan but later suggested that the legislature party leadership be given to the “original Congress”. But Chennithala demolished such ideas, asserting it made no sense to talk in terms of the Congress and the erstwhile TMC after the merger.

Though Balasubramoniyan is junior to Balakrishnan, who is the senior-most in the legislature party, his ability to effectively take on both the DMK and the ADMK in the Assembly is tilting the scales in his favour. Yashoda, the legislature party leader before the merger, may be appointed deputy leader.

State government employees are planning to go on an indefinite strike from tomorrow, defying Jayalalithaa’s warning that the law banning strikes in essential services will be invoked against protesters.

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