Dumped by the DMK and with a slim chance of having an alliance with the AIADMK, the Congress finds itself virtually friendless in Tamil Nadu on the eve of the 2014 general elections.
But politics being an art of— among other things — looking optimistic, local Congress leaders said now was the time to break out of the usual way of fighting elections — riding piggyback on regional players.
In fact, this was what Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi wanted: Rebuild the party rather than going for alliances. S Jyothimani, one of the youth leaders spotted by Gandhi, said, “The situation has given us the opportunity to abandon the election-to-election strategy.”
Even veteran EVKS Elangovan described the DMK decision to abandon the Congress as a “Christmas and New Year gift, as it gives the party a chance to shed excess baggage. We are not scared of fighting the elections alone.”
But Elangovan seems to be still in the old “alliance mode”, at least partially. He said, “Something will happen between now and the next five months on the alliance front.”
Political analysts and rivals, however, called it simple bravado. BJP veteran H Raja’s prognosis: “Congress will draw a blank in Tamil Nadu, and the DMK will be the worst loser along with it.”
Raja depends mainly on the “let’s make Modi the PM” sentiment perceived to be growing across India. He told HT from Ahmedabad, where he was meeting Modi: “The fight in Tamil Nadu will be between the AIADMK-led alliance and the BJP-led alliance, with the DMK being somewhere in between.”
What will happen to the Congress? Raja hoped “the Congress will fight alone and lose everything”. He is confident that smaller parties everywhere are gravitating towards the BJP. “We’re in touch with several regional formations and you’ll see alliances happening in a week to a fortnight.”
Prof Ramu Manivannan, head of the department of political science and public administration, Madras University, agreed. He said the Congress may have the worst outing in 2014. Even if it goes for rebuilding the party, the results will not come before 10 years.
While the AIADMK looks ready for mopping up a few more than its nine seats, the DMK, which won 18 seats in 2009, may end up losing some.
A senior DMK MP said on condition of anonymity that the party had been trying to wean away the Left from the AIADMK and pull in other smaller Dalit formations, besides wooing the DMDK of Captain Vijaykanth.
The Congress, too, is trying its best to woo the DMDK, which won 29 seats in the last assembly elections, displacing the DMK as the main opposition party. In national elections, the DMDK’s vote share was 10% vote in the 2009 general elections.
But observers feel the Congress at present looks unappetising.
Reasons: Besides the anti-incumbency sentiment, the party is seen in Tamil Nadu as an indecisive authority when it comes to help out the Sri Lankan Tamils. And the popular anger over price rise and scams won’t help it either.
Time for Congress rebuilders to get ready for a long haul, it seems.