Can The Congress Go It Alone In Tamil Nadu?

S Rajesh

Jun 13, 2024, 12:18 PM | Updated Jun 14, 2024, 11:43 AM IST

K Selvaperunthagai (left) and Chief Minister M K Stalin.
K Selvaperunthagai (left) and Chief Minister M K Stalin.
  • As Congress ponders going solo in Tamil Nadu, can the party secure seats without DMK's backing?
  • In a hint at the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), K Selvaperunthagai, the chief of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress, while addressing a general committee meeting of the party, asked how long should the party be dependent on others. 

    At the very same conference, senior Congress leader E V K S Elangovan, who is the Erode East MLA and grand nephew of E V Ramasamy, however stated that while he wasn’t saying that desire should not exist but it should not turn into greed and the party ending up with no seats.

    This is not the first time that Selvaperunthagai has spoken about the dependency of the Congress on other parties, mainly the DMK, to win seats. He had spoken about it in the month of May as well. 

    The remarks are significant because whatever seats the Congress wins (nine in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections), it is said to be because of the support of the DMK. It is very unlikely that the party can win a seat without an alliance partner.

    This time its vote share of 10.67 per cent was less than that of the BJP, which secured 11.24 per cent. But it is to be kept in mind that the Congress party contested only nine seats.

    Selvaperunthagai’s statements also come at a time when the BJP, the other national party in the fray in the state is taking an independent course under the leadership of K Annamalai and not allying with All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK).

    Amongst the criticisms levelled against the Congress party in Tamil Nadu is that it has more leaders than workers and the leaders keep singing praises of Chief Minister M K Stalin instead of working to strengthen the party.

    During one of the protests organised by the party against Rahul Gandhi’s conviction by a court in Gujarat, in which just a few leaders of the Congress were seen raising slogans on a railway track, Annamalai wrote in a post on X, “TN Congress chief Thiru KS Alagiri, generally a spokesperson of the DMK, jumped into a protest after Rahul Gandhi was handed 2 years imprisonment by a Gujarat court. 

    “The number of media personnel covering this protest exceeds the number of people protesting.”

    More recently, reacting to the announcement by the Congress that they would lay siege to the office of the Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP over remarks made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Annamalai had written that if the date was announced in advance, it would be convenient for them to prepare meals for the ‘ten people’ who would come.

    The Congress was not always like this in Tamil Nadu. The first four chief ministers of the state (called Madras state at the time) after independence – P S Kumaraswamy Raja, C Rajagopalachari, K Kamaraj and M Bhaktavatsalam, were from the party. Its decline started with the rise of the Dravidian parties. 

    However when it comes to whether it can go alone today and win seats, the answer is that it is highly unlikely.

    The last time they did not have an alliance with the DMK, ie, in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, they failed to win a single seat and even lost Kanyakumari, which is one of the party’s strongholds. It secured a vote share of 4.37 per cent.

    Therefore, in spite of all the talk about Selvaperunthagai’s comments, the Congress is likely to stick with the DMK and this may just be a tactic to get more seats in the 2026 assembly elections as the number of seats being allotted to the party has seen a consistent decline. 

    From 63 in 2011, the number reduced to 41 in 2016 and then 25 in 2021.

    Even during the seat sharing negotiations for the Lok Sabha polls, the DMK reportedly wanted to reduce the number of seats it gave to the Congress but however in the end, the Congress managed to get nine seats in Tamil Nadu along with Puducherry in a repeat of the 2019 formula. However, some of the seats allotted were changed.

    The party had however wished for more seats.

    While joining hands with the AIADMK closer to the elections in order to get more seats, cannot be ruled out, the national leadership of the Congress is close to the DMK and so it is unlikely to happen.

    Also Read: LTTE Supporter, 12 Criminal Cases: The Controversial Background Of New Tamil Nadu Congress President K Selvaperunthagai

    S Rajesh is Staff Writer at Swarajya.

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