Congress barely manages to keep its vote share intact

dc-Cover-ea35v3t98mpm963jkc5son8lt7-20160530062229.MediE.V.K.S. Elangovan

Quite often the ace up his sleeve is his word play for the Periyar family scion and the present Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) president E.V.K.S. Elangovan.

Soon after the 2011 Assembly elections, when the Congress party here was in alliance with the DMK — as it happened in the 2016 polls also — Elangovan was best remembered for his memorable one-liner stinging salvo in Tamil against the then TNCC leader K.V. Thangkabalu thus: “Arupathimoorvaragalaga Sendrargal, Pancha Boothangalaga Thirumbi Vandhaargal.”

That was how Elangovan sought to sum up the Congress’ election performance, drawing from a revered allusion to the 63 Nayanmaars (poet-saints) in the Shaiva Siddantha tradition, while the second part of his barb referred to the five elements of nature.

For the Congress was allotted 63 seats by the DMK in 2011 polls, but the country’s grand old party managed to win just five. Elangovan’s dig was then brilliantly couched in the language of popular religious folklore on how TNCC missed another poll opportunity.

Five years down the line, the DMK in the run-up to the 2016 Assembly elections, slashed its allotment to a split Congress by a third of those seats to 41 (after the Tamil Maanila Congress — TMC had broken away from the parent body under Mr

G.K. Vasan’s leadership last year), and Congress slightly improved its tally to eight seats this year.

As the number eight in religious lore, symbolically represents the auspicious ‘8 aksharas’ that make up the name of Lord Vishnu, Elangovan may be now drawing huge comfort that metaphysically, it is a ‘great progress’ for the Congress in Tamil Nadu, from the five basic elements of nature in 2011, to the ultimate reality — Maha Vishnu — post-2016 polls.

In whichever manner the results might be read, in number terms, the plain fact is that DMK benefited more from its alliance with the Congress this time, than the national party would have hoped to get reciprocally when Mr Gulam Nabi Azad broke the ice with ‘Kalaignar’ M. Karunanidhi at the latter’s Gopalapuram house in renewing their political ties after the DMK had pulled out of the UPA-II well ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Even both the Muslim parties that aligned with DMK now had won just one out of the 10 seats the Dravidian major had earmarked for them including the IUML.

Aside from the fact that senior Congress leader and former Union finance minister, Mr P. Chidambaram had expressed his dissatisfaction over his party being saddled with several ‘un-winnable seats’ this time, what is interesting is that of the eight Assembly seats the Congress won now — Karaikudi, Mudukulathur, Killiyur, Vilavancode, Colachel, Nanguenri, Dharapuram and Ooty — six seats came from South Tamil Nadu, including three from the southernmost Kanyakumari district where Congress-DMK alliance swept the polls since BJP has been emerging as a force to be reckoned with, polarising voters on religious lines.

Barring the two seats Congress picked up from Western Tamil Nadu, the party drew a blank in major parts of the State including northern and Cauvery delta belts.

A closer look at the 2016 poll results reveal that TMC, as part of the PWA (People’s Welfare Alliance)-DMDK front, had in several constituencies played the spoilsport for the Congress. This is not to berate the DMDK by itself — though it was decimated in the Northern Vanniyar belt by the PMK and in some segments with MDMK, have turned spoilers for the Congress. In Tenkasi for example, if not for TMC candidate Charles polling 7,324 votes, Congress’ Palani Nadar might have easily picked up that seat. In Poompuhar, at the tail end of the Cauvery delta, TMC eroded DMK-Congress front votes.

Nonetheless, in the face of the PMK, the third front parties all splitting the votes, “it is a big achievement that Congress has emerged third after the 2016 Assembly polls with a 6.40 per cent vote-share under the stewardship of Mr Elangovan and that is how we look at it,” says the TNCC spokesperson Mr A. Gopanna.

Contesting 41 seats along with DMK, the national party has now barely managed to retain its vote-share in Tamil Nadu, considering it had garnered 9.30 per cent of the total votes in 2011 contesting 63 seats.

These numbers could at best be small comfort for the Congress, say political observers, adding, it cannot detract from the larger organisational issues the party has been facing in several states including Tamil Nadu.

Mr Elangovan might have been “politically correct” in going by the Congress high command’s ears, but the other factions in the Pradesh Congress have openly complained that he was unable to take on board all sections.

The ‘Periyar legacy’ baggage, which Mr Elangovan carries, has helped to shore up with DMK, but at the cost of a certain “insularity” at the state leadership level, his adversaries within the Congress stress, adding, Elangovan, to strengthen the party, has to “walk the extra mile” to reach out not only to his detractors but to the TMC leaders as well.

Mr Elangovan, to an extent, tried that before the polls that saw few of the prominent TMC faces like Peter Alphonse returning to the mother party.

But for Congress to be split again, 15 years after the late Congress leader G.K. Moopanar wanted it to be merged in the larger interests of strengthening the secular forces, has come as a major setback for it.

No wonder the senior Congress leader Mr Kamal Nath said in a recent interview that Congress leadership has to be simultaneously built in each state to take on the BJP.

Pin It

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *