The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Jaya nudged to spread reach

Chennai, Dec. 17: The positive energy of the saffron sweep in Gujarat seems to have seeped into the ADMK, spurring it to forcefully articulate a more proactive role for its leader Jayalalithaa that goes beyond the confines of the state into the realm of national politics.

Advocating that Amma set her sights from Fort St George to South Block was none other than parliamentary party leader P.H. Pandian, as a crucial two-day ADMK general council meeting opened here today.

There was a vacuum and a dearth of leadership at the national level and the time was ripe for Jayalalithaa to make an entry in the national political scenario, Pandian said.

Despite the uncertainty of the awaited Supreme Court verdict in the Tansi land deal case, a sense of quiet optimism pervaded the gathering at the first meeting of the party’s highest policy-making body since it recaptured power last year.

The foot soldiers looked elated as Jayalalithaa’s larger relevance was affirmed from the party’s topmost platform. After all, she was not only the first person to ring up Narendra Modi and congratulate him, but the Congress’ poor showing confirmed her reservations against Sonia Gandhi leading the party.

But Pandian’s optimism and exuberance found only a muted response from party circles, which indicated that since the general council coincided with the party turning 31, the thrust should be on the next Lok Sabha elections, less than two years away.

Once the party broadens its outlook, the true implications of Jayalalithaa’s policy of “political equidistance” from both the BJP and the Congress will begin to unfold. Sources said it is likely that in the coming days, this distance will shrink, particularly as the ADMK begins to tilt towards the BJP.

The general council today began amid a splash of colour and fanfare after the brief customary executive meeting, in which Pulamaipithan’s name was proposed for chairman of the party presidium, a largely ornamental post.

Apart from Jayalalithaa’s friend, Sasikala, ADMK treasurer Dindigul Sreenivasan, headquarters secretary K.A. Sengottaiyan, propaganda secretary O.S. Manian, women’s wing secretary Sulochana Sampath and several MPs, including T.M. Selvaganapathy, ministers and MLAs were prominently present. The venue, a massive Kalyana Mandapam complex, once part of the famous Vijaya-Vahuni Studios was sanitised and ringed off by a heavy security cordon.

Only a small enclosure was provided at the rear for the journalists.

Most of the speakers on the first day — calling Jayalalithaa “Kazhagathin Niranthara Podhu Seyalalar (the permanent general secretary of the party)” — stuck to general issues, but party sources said several of them applauded her for enacting the law banning forcible religious conversion. The ripple effect it has had in other states, including Gujarat, came in for special mention.

The financial crisis facing the state, controversial decisions in the offing like privatisation of bus transport, scrapping of free power for farmers, and a disconnect between party machinery and the administration were among the issues that partymen discussed and gave a feedback on to their leader.

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