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POTA misuse will be main poll issue: Vaiko

By Our Special Correspondent


CHENNAI, FEB.7. Soon after his release from the Vellore prison, the Marumalarchi Dravadi Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader, Vaiko, garlanded the statue of the Dravidian leaders, Periyar E.V. Ramasamy and C.N. Annadurai, before leaving for Chennai.

His drive to Chennai took several hours as vehicles joined his convoy and people gathered at all roadside towns and villages to greet and catch a glimpse of a leader, who had been jailed for 19 months. He was greeted enthusiastically by cadres of the MDMK, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the Congress along the route.

In Chennai too, he paid respects at the Anna and MGR memorials and garlanded the Periyar statue, before reaching the party office, Thayagam at Egmore. There, he hoisted the party flag and had a happy reunion with his colleagues. Despite the delayed arrival, there were large crowds to welcome him. He later met the DMK president, M. Karunanidhi, and senior DMK leaders at Anna Arivalayam.

Mr. Karunanidhi had been waiting for his "younger brother" and they had an emotional meeting. The DMK chief today published a poem welcoming Mr. Vaiko to freedom.

After an hour-long meeting with the DMK leaders, a visibly tired Mr. Vaiko was still trying to be cheerful. Asked by the waiting mediapersons for his reaction to the State Government's appeal against his release on bail, he said, "It is the people to decide. They will deliver the judgment on the vindictiveness of this Government".

Earlier, addressing mediapersons in the Vellore prison quadrangle, after his release, Mr. Vaiko said that the Lok Sabha election would prove a "people's verdict and warning against the regime of the Chief Minister." It would also prove that Tamil Nadu was the land of the Dravidian movement and of Periyar and Anna, where religious forces could not take root. "The repressive measures of the Tamil Nadu Government to invoke POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) for political vendetta would form part of the election campaign", he said.

"I would not like to say anything except that the Central POTA Review Committee is functioning properly", he replied to a question whether he was satisfied with its working. The misuse of the POTA would be one of the main election issues, he emphasised.

The party volunteers raised slogans hailing Mr. Vaiko as `Makkal Thalaivar' (people's leader) and `Thamizhargalin Urimaikku Kural Kodutha Vaiko' (Vaiko who voiced the rights of the Tamils) and `Puratchi Puyal' (a revolutionary storm). The party workers had taken up all vantage positions at Vellore, atop the prison compound wall and on the trees nearby. As soon as he emerged from the inner jail gate, the workers burst crackers and hailed Mr. Vaiko. He got into an open vehicle to acknowledge the greetings of his followers and well-wishers.

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