Millennium Post

TN Congress left high and dry

The Congress split in Tamil Nadu spells trouble for the 129-year-old Congress party.  Although the Congress high command has described it as a result of factional fight, there is more to it than meets the eye as it has far reaching impact on the state as well as national politics.

With the state assembly elections scheduled for 2016, political parties are positioning themselves. The birth of the new party (yet to be named) headed by former Union Shipping Minister G K Vasan is a classic example of this. The Congress won just five of the 234 seats in the 2011 Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu. It was routed along with all other parties in last Lok Sabha elections, with the AIADMK grabbing 37 out of 39 seats and remaining two going to the BJP led NDA. Its vote share also came down to just 4.7 per cent.

Vasan, the son of late G K Moopanar, who was known as the king maker in the Congress had split the party in 1996 protesting against the then Congress president and Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao’s decision to continue the electoral alliance with the AIADMK. Such was the anger over the alliance that his newly formed TMC, in alliance with the DMK, swept the assembly and the Lok Sabha elections, with Jayalalithaa herself losing in a wave. Even so Moopanar could not keep the Tamil Manila Congress afloat, more so after the DMK ditched him and joined hands with the BJP in 1999 Lok Sabha elections. Avoiding alliance with the BJP, Moopanar took the TMC to the very same AIADMK in the 2001 elections arguing communalism was a greater evil than corruption. He died in August that year and his son Vasan formally merged the TMC with the Congress soon thereafter.

There is no doubt that the Congress has not been able to find its feet in Tamil Nadu since 1967 when it lost power to the DMK. Since then, it has been riding piggyback either on the DMK or AIADMK. Despite its weakness, the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress has always been ridden with factionalism.  Earlier it was Moopanar versus Vazhapadi Ramamurthy and now Vasan versus Elangovan. There are also other groups. The Congress has made Vasan as PCC president, then a minister in UPA 1 and UPA 2 but he is not happy. The dissatisfaction has been brewing for quite some time and when Elangovan was appointed as the new PCC chief this week, the whole thing broke loose. Some important leaders like Gnanasekharan, the former PCC chief Alphonso and others have also left the Congress leaving a vacuum in the party.

Vasan, despite all the important positions he held could not level to the stature of his father.  Will the new outfit floated by Vasan succeed? There are many who doubt it because the times are different and Vasan is not Moopanar who had friends across the spectrum. Secondly Moopanar had a mass base whereas Vasan never contested an election. Now Vasan is invoking Kamaraj claiming that the high command had asked the PCC to remove the pictures of Kamaraj in the membership cards issued by the TNCC. The real position is that even if Kamaraj were alive the Congress could not bounce back.  Vasan is trying to get the anti- Congress votes, and the other parties are also trying for it. Moreover many senior leaders like P.Chidambaram and Jayanti Nartarajan who went out with Moopanar are not with Vasan now.

Secondly, the opposition votes are getting fractured which will give an advantage to the AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa who is already getting some sympathy after her conviction.  Apart from the DMK and the AIADMK- the two dominant Dravidian parties, there are smaller outfits like the PMK, MDMK, DMDK, and other smaller parties. Vasan’s party may be the new entrant. These Dravidian parties believe in Tamil political identity, Tamil cultural nationalism and north - south perceptions. The 2016 poll alliance will decide who will be the winner.

Thirdly, the BJP has big plans to expand in Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Odisha, Jammu and Kashmir and other states riding on the Modi wave. Although the BJP had been trying to find its foot in the south, it had not been successful for the past many decades. The first BJP government was formed in Karnataka in 2008 but that government moved from crisis to crisis ridden with corruption and factionalism.

The BJP  Front now has two MPs from Tamil Nadu in Lok Sabha   and is hoping to expand the front with the DMDK, PMK and now perhaps Vasan’s new outfit. The BJP is also trying to occupy the space after Jayalalithaa has been convicted while Karunanidhi’s family is facing corruption charges. The problem is the BJP has no charismatic leader to project against strong leaders like Jayalalithaa or Karunanidhi or Vijayakant. Moreover the BJP is seen as a Brahminical and north Indian party and has no Dravidian touch as the other parties have.

Vasan’s political options have increased now as the opposition in the State will certainly embrace Vasan’s new party but he has to keep his new outfit afloat for the next 18 months. He has opted for a big gamble.

Whether Vasan succeeds or not, the Congress has lost. The rebellion suggests more revolt in the days to come from other states. It can ignore the danger signal only to its own peril.

The Congress leadership is smug thinking that once the disenchantment with Modi starts, it would benefit. It will be living in fool’s paradise as the party is already sinking and all that it needs is a drastic surgery and strong leadership. IPA

Next Story
Share it