By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, May 30 (IANS) It won eight of the nine Lok Sabha constituencies it contested in Tamil Nadu and notched up a 12 per cent vote share. Is the Congress on a revival mode in the state?
The party, which lost power in the state in 1967, has been piggybacking on the AIADMK or DMK and finding it difficult to stand on his own feet.
Political analysts differ on the Congress strength in Tamil Nadu.
“Certainly, the Congress is on a revival mode in Tamil Nadu. The victory is not just due to its alliance with DMK. The party’s good show is due to a combination of factors that were favourable for itself and that of DMK,” political analyst Raveendhran Dhuraiswamy told IANS.
The eight victorious Congress candidates were K. Jayakumar, A. Chellakumar, M.K. Vishnu Prasad, S. Jothimani, Thirunavukkarasar Su, Karti Chidambaram, B. Manickam Tagore and H. Vasanthakumar.
According to Dhuraiswamy, Tamil Nadu electorate voted for Congress President Rahul Gandhi, who was projected as the Prime Ministerial candidate by DMK President M.K. Stalin.
Tamil Nadu has bucked the national trend in the past too. The state voted for the Congress in the Lok Sabha elections held after the Emergency in 1977. People voted for Rajiv Gandhi in 1989 and now for Rahul Gandhi, he added.
Dhuraiswamy added that the Congress was being wooed by many others too and cited actor-politician Rajinikanth’s appeal urging Rahul Gandhi not to quit his party post.
“It was only after Rajinkanth’s appeal that Stalin made a call to Gandhi asking him not to resign as Congress President.”
Another political analyst, John Arokiasamy, said the battle was clearly drawn in the state – Prime Minister Narendra Modi vs Gandhi.
Arokiasamy said the victory of many prominent Congress faces including Karti Chidambaram was a sign of revival of sorts for the grand old party in Tamil Nadu.
This was despite the fact that a massive anti-Modi wave had contributed to such a victory in the state, he added.
“The minority vote consolidation in favour of DMK-led alliance wouldn’t have happened if the Congress was not part of the alliance or Gandhi was not announced as Prime Ministerial candidate which led to DMK’s massive victory,” Arokiasamy said.
Arokiasamy fears the Congress may be growing phenomenally at the cost of DMK.
Tamil Nadu Congress spokesperson Gopanna attributes the party’s eight-seat victory to the sweeping anti-Modi wave in the state, a view which was shared by Associate Professor in Madras Institute of Development Studies (MIDS) C. Lakshmanan.
According to Lakshmanan, there was no wave favouring any party in the state but only an anti-Modi storm.
“Had the Congress stood alone, then it would have been a big task for the party to maintain its vote share,” Lakshmanan said.
“Traditionally Tamil Nadu voters prefer an alliance where the Congress figures,” Gopanna said.
Crediting Stalin for stitching up a secular alliance and sharing seats liberally with the alliance partners, Gopanna said the victory wouldn’t have been possible but for this.
Citing the loss of about one crore votes by AIADMK, Gopanna said the 12 per cent vote share of the Congress was due to the DMK-led alliance.
Contesting alone in 2014, the Congress got just 4.3 per cent of votes.
The AIADMK on its own suffered a drastic slide in vote share this time. In 2014, the party won 37 Lok Sabha seats with a vote share of 44 per cent. This plunged to 18.48 per cent now.
The DMK-led front got about 52 per cent vote share in 2019 while DMK on its own secured 32.76 per cent of votes, up from 23.6 per cent it got in 2014.
“It was a dual anti-incumbency factor that acted in our favour. The people were not happy with the AIADMK in the state and with the BJP at the centre,” Gopanna added.
Though the Congress appointed K.S. Alagiri as its Tamil Nadu President in place of Su. Thirunavukarasar, the party accepted the change without much murmur.
But according to Arokiasamy, a meaningful revival of the Congress was possibly only if it had an opportunity to share power in the state either now or got a sizeable number of seats in the forthcoming Assembly elections.
“The Congress lacks a proper party infrastructure or cadre base unlike the two Dravidian parties or other prominent state regional parties. It is in no position to win a single seat contesting alone in the Assembly or in the Lok Sabha,” Arokiasamy said.
Lakshmanan said for the Congress to revive, it needed new strategies, do more work at the ground level, take proactive steps and infuse young blood into the party.
The party, he said, should field candidates from “normal family background” instead of those with VIP connections. “Only then people will look at the party,” Lakshmanan remarked.