For Cong, the enemy lies within | india | Hindustan Times
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For Cong, the enemy lies within

With key faction leaders carting away bulk of the seats, long-time aspirants have been left dry, writes GC Shekhar.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2006 15:46 IST
GC Shekhar

The worst enemy of the Tamil Nadu Congress are Congressmen themselves.

So goes popular wisdom in the state. This time, too, the Congressmen are living up to their reputation as widespread protests followed the choice of candidates for the 48 seats the party is contesting in the forthcoming Assembly elections.

With key faction leaders and Union ministers carting away bulk of the seats for their respective supporters, long-time aspirants have once again been left high and dry. And their anger is bursting forth.

PCC president M Krishnaswamy was recently jostled by angry protesters demanding to know why Arul Anbarasu, son of former MP ERA Anbarasu, was thrust on the Sholingur constituency when ex-MLA Munirtanam was the more popular choice.

Krishnaswamy could not rebut the charges of nepotism since he himself had wrangled a ticket for his son Vishnu Prasad from Cheyyar. He had also claimed the Plour seat for a close aide.

"Merit, popularity and sacrifice for the party are no more the criteria for choosing candidates. Everything boils down to your loyalty to the faction leader or a Union minister," rued a senior MLA.

Apparently, he has a point: Every Union minister — GK Vasan, EVKS Elangovan and P Chidambaram — has taken care of their respective followers, even though some of them are undeserving.

Former ministers such as R Prabhu and KV Thangabalu, too, have managed to wrest their quota of seats.

At times, even a local godfather is not necessary to win a " ticket, as MR Suresh, the Congress candidate from Salem-I has demonstrated. For someone who joined the party only in 1997, Suresh has managed to bag his ticket thanks to a direct deal with an AICC functionary.

"Most of us heard about his existence only after the party gave him the ticket," said Youth Congress leader U Prakash, currently on a hunger protest.

Such wanton distribution of party tickets has resulted in demonstrations throughout the state. The threat of rebels putting up their own candidates and non-coperation face the Congress in at least a dozen seats.

If the rebels do carry out their threats then the party could be in trouble as 35 of its 48 candidates are locked in direct contest with the AIADMK, which has a knack of utilising such rebels very effectively.

But state Congress leaders are not too bothered. They point out that the AIADMK and DMK also witnessed such protests but they died down once campaign began. "One visit by Sonia Gandhi and tempers will cool down," said a senior MP.