Chennai, June 24: The state Congress’ attempts to put up a united face ahead of centenary celebrations of K. Kamaraj suffered a setback today.
A number of state Congress committee members, led by G.K. Vasan, skipped a crucial meeting chaired by AICC general secretary Kamal Nath to discuss arrangements for the July 15 centenary of the party patriarch.
The Congress was banking on the proposed mega show to demonstrate that the state unit was closing ranks in a bid to usher in a significant political change in the state.
When Kamal Nath reached Sathyamurthy Bhavan for the meeting, he found Vasan, the late G.K. Moopanar’s son, and his supporters missing for “reasons which had nothing to do with the agenda of today’s meeting”, sources said.
According to sources, Vasan and some of his men had earlier in the day called on Kamal Nath at the hotel where he was put up.
They complained about the recent remarks made by E.V.K.S. Elangovan, party working president, to the media that the ruling ADMK was responsible for the “troubles” in the state Congress.
Vasan’s group reportedly demanded action against Elangovan for his “indiscriminate remarks” made when the party was trying to strengthen the state unit. They had been demanding his removal for some time now.
Kamal Nath, who heard them out, however, did not expect Vasan’s group to boycott the meeting, which was held with only 15 of the 31 members of the centenary committee.
Embarrassed at the “serious dimension” of the open show of factionalism, Kamal Nath reportedly warned the 16 dissenters they were virtually showing “defiance” of the party high command.
Later, Kamal Nath played down the differences while fielding reporters’ queries. He said the Congress was a large party, so it was “bound to have such differences”.
Saying he had earlier met some party leaders in his hotel room, the AICC general secretary took the opportunity to rule out any change in the state unit leadership, at least for now.
Emphasising he knew how to “resolve the differences”, Kamal Nath said the task should not be difficult as all factions had “complete faith” in party chief Sonia Gandhi’s leadership.
What Kamal Nath left unsaid was the likely repercussions of today’s development on the party’s attempt to revive the memory of Kamaraj — that, too, in his centenary year — in its bid to gain lost ground in the state.
The centenary celebrations will culminate in a public rally in Chennai on July 15, which will be addressed by Sonia soon after she unveils a statue of Kamaraj.
Today’s meeting was attended, among others, by Elangovan, state chief S. Balakrishnan, former Union minister Jayanthi Natarajan, Peter Alphonse, K.S. Azhagiri, and former state presidents T. Ramamurthy and Kumari Ananthan.
The AICC secretary in charge of the state, who had accompanied Kamal Nath, was also present.