After Jayalalithaa: Fretting about BJP, Congress banks on goodwill from Rahul visit

The Congress, out of power for nearly five decades in Tamil Nadu, has neither a charismatic leader nor the organisational network and strength to expand its political footprint.

Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Updated: December 7, 2016 12:11 pm
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The unpredictability of Tamil Nadu’s politics occupied the mind space of the Congress as it dissected the political vacuum left by J Jayalalithaa’s death; much of its worries centred on what the BJP could be planning.

The opinion in the Congress appears to be divided about how the void would impact the state’s politics and whether the Congress can recreate a space of itself. “Nature abhors a vacuum… despite that it is too early to make a political prediction,” a senior Congress said while underlining that for the Congress it is largely a “zero-sum game.”

WATCH | Rahul Gandhi Pay Respects To Jayalalithaa

The Congress, out of power for nearly five decades in Tamil Nadu, has neither a charismatic leader nor the organisational network and strength to expand its political footprint. But leaders argue that despite Jayalalithaa’s attacks on Sonia Gandhi in the past, the Dravidian party is more Congress-friendly than the DMK with which the Congress has had now-on, now-off alliances in the last one-and-a-half decades. Such things would have been on Rahul Gandhi’s mind when he sought to bury the past by paying a visit to Apollo Hospital in October.

The Sonia-Jayalalithaa fallout happened in 1999. That March, the two had famously met over tea after which the AIADMK withdrew support to the A B Vajpayee government, pulling it down. Jayalalithaa, however, backed out of supporting a Congress government led by Sonia.

Also Read | Jayalalithaa passes away: Apollo to Marina, her last journey

Jayalalithaa been heavily critical of Sonia since, even bringing up her foreign origins in 2002. The Congress had then even released copies of her signed letter of support to argue she misled the nation.

Congress leaders say Rahul was the first high-profile leader from Delhi to visit the hospital, which was received well by the AIADMK cadre and leaders. “He has earned a lot of goodwill among the AIADMK cadre with his visit… both the BJP president and the finance minister and many other political leaders visited after him while the prime minister never went to the hospital,” a Congress leader said.

WATCH | J Jayalalithaa’s Life Journey

 

So what will unfold in Tamil Nadu politics now?

Read | After Jayalalithaa: Party built on image may need to start afresh

“It is a million-dollar question. It depends on whether the AIADMK will stay intact and the MLAs will show loyalty to the new leadership. It also depends on how (PM) Modi plays his politics. I don’t think Modi will allow anybody to hijack the AIADMK. There is a vacuum. And a question mark hangs on whether O Panneerselvam or Sasikala will be able to run the show as efficiently as Jayalalithaa did,” a senior leader said.

He said the BJP could try to exploit the situation. “In the last two days, we have BJP ministers everywhere… The BJP could try to recreate an Arunachal Pradesh-like situation,” he said. “Because the Supreme Court is yet to give its verdict on the Karnataka government’s appeal challenging acquittal of Jayalalithaa and Sasikala, the sword is still hanging over Sasikala’s head,” a leader said.

WATCH | 5 Lesser Known Facts About Sasikala Natarajan

The Congress was divided on the Karnataka government’s decision to appeal in the Supreme Court. “Karnataka had nothing to do with the case. It had no authority to move the Supreme Court against her acquittal… but nobody listened,” a leader said.

Read | Jayalalithaa passes away: The burial of a believer

The lack of a charismatic leader too is hurting the Congress. P Chidambaram is perhaps the lone Congress leader who is known across the state. But sources said he is not interested in state politics. An AICC office-bearer had pleaded with Chidambaram to take up the post of state Congress president after E V K S Elangovan resigned but he apparently showed no interest.

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  1. C
    Chirayu
    Dec 7, 2016 at 4:44 am
    We have seen Rahul hi laughing and giggling at Jayalalita funeral. He is a laid back , corrupt , pampered lad lacking any political vision , skill and ideology who is struggling just bcoz his mother forces him to do so.
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    1. D
      Dev Verma
      Dec 7, 2016 at 8:38 pm
      Surprised congress were waiting for madam jaya's death to make their base stronger from rahul's goodwill visit to chennai...ashamed..
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      1. T
        T DUTTA
        Dec 7, 2016 at 4:27 am
        FILM STARS HAVE ALWAYS BEEN SUCCESSFUL IN TAMIL NADU POLITICS---FIRST IT WAS MG RAMCHANDRAN[mgr] THEN J JAYALALITA---NOW IT MAY BE RAJNIKANT OR HEMA MALINI--MAY BE KAMAL HASAN--MAY BE REKHA GANESAN-OR MAY BE SRIDEVI[any more names?]
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        1. S
          Sriniwasan
          Dec 7, 2016 at 4:27 am
          Tamilains voters are very intelligent and street smart.Moron will not be accepted steeped in corruption and nepotism.Tamil Media also extols virtues of excellency and not inheritance
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          1. M
            mumbikar
            Dec 7, 2016 at 7:47 am
            no national party will dare to enter that domain. the regional parties are very strong and the people of south India have always and will continue to trust they own regional parties. south Indians are a very close knit family.
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