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Since 1st March, 1999
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Sonia dials, Karunanidhi hears new ‘beginning’
Call thaws 20-year freeze

Chennai, Dec. 30: The new year greeting came a day earlier, but M. Karunanidhi wasn’t complaining. After all, it’s not often that a single phone call melts two decades of frost.

For the DMK chief, the call from Sonia Gandhi marked the “beginning” of a new relationship. “I consider this (the talk with Sonia) as the beginning of the process of reaching an electoral alliance with the Congress,” a smiling Karunanidhi told reporters here.

Both leaders had greeted each other for the new year. Karunanidhi said the Congress chief “congratulated us for coming out of the NDA”.

Their conversation came a day after CPM veteran Harkishen Singh Surjeet telephoned Karunanidhi to say he would soon reach Chennai to discuss new alliances for the coming Lok Sabha polls.

The former Tamil Nadu chief minister also disclosed that CPI general secretary A.B. Bardhan had got in touch with him and “appreciated” the DMK’s move to withdraw from the central coalition. But he said the formation of a new alliance depended upon when elections are going to be held.

“Even today, the deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, indicated going for early elections and the DMK is ready for it whenever it may be called,” he added.

Replying to another question on whether the Congress was sending any emissary to begin the parleys, he said he had only seen such reports this evening. “Nothing has been heard from the Congress party.”

Karunanidhi refused to comment on Sonia’s recent remarks in Mumbai that her party would not thrust its leadership on other parties and whether the DMK thought it a “climbdown” after the Shimla conclave. At the conclave held earlier this year, the Congress position was that only it could lead an alternative front against the BJP. “I cannot reply to inferences,” he said.

He also pointed out that Congress spokesman S. Jaipal Reddy had subsequently said any anti-BJP alliance could have only one leader — Sonia.

The DMK chief also did not envisage any major problem coming in the way of his party’s alliance talks with the Congress in view of the pro-LTTE MDMK. “If you expect to see a hitch, you will see a hitch on this count,” he said.

Karunanidhi welcomed the decision of MDMK leader Vaiko, detained under the anti-terror law, to consult lawyers and party colleagues on the question of seeking bail. “I am very happy,” he said.

The DMK chief had yesterday appealed to Vaiko not to stick to his stand of not seeking bail, as there was “enormous work to be done outside”.

In a related development, the minority cell of the Tamil Nadu Congress unit today sought the expulsion of MP Jaffer Sharief for his recent statement that Sonia should not be projected as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.

The cell’s secretary, Kovai Syed Isaq, said in a statement that such remarks would send wrong signals to party workers.

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