May 18, 2014 3:07:52 am
The Congress had lost power in Tamil Nadu in 1967, but as the third biggest party after the two Dravidian outfits, it could have decided the fate of either of them. The national party had retained its clout for nearly two-and-a-half decades, since the 1980 Lok Sabha polls, but this election has burst the myth of this influential minority.
That the Congress failed to win any of the 39 seats in the state was not surprising. However, to find out the real magnitude of fall, one has to look at the steep drop in its voteshare.
In 2004, the Congress, in alliance with the DMK, garnered 14.40 per cent votes to emerge as the third largest after its partner and the AIADMK. Five years later, it contested seats and got 15 per cent votes. For the national party, this was a satisfactory position — it showed the Congress as the game-changer which, on its own, may not be able to win any seat, but can, in alliance with either of the two Dravdian outfits, decide the outcome of elections.
However, this time, as it carried a heavy baggage of anti-incumbency and regional factors like Sri Lankan Tamil issue, the party was forced to contest alone. Unable to find a regional partner, the Congress has received a paltry 4.3 per cent votes, which was even lesser than that of the BJP — a party considered to be non-existent in Tamil Nadu.
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Even this number is deceptive while evaluating the actual strength of the Congress. If its top two performers are removed from the calculation, the voteshare further falls to 3.64 per cent, pushing the party even behind the MDMK, and ahead of only the two Left parties, sub-regional outfits. For a party that had four Union ministers from Tamil Nadu, it could not have gotten worse.
Of the 39 candidates it fielded, only H Vasantha Kumar from Kanyakumari put up a semblance of fight.
Incidentally, Kanyakumari was the only constituency where party president Sonia Gandhi addressed an election rally. More importantly, Kumar fought like a Dravidian party candidate, sparing no money or effort in search of a victory. He finished number two with 2,44,44 votes behind BJP’s lone winner from the state Pon Radhakrishnan.
Another noteworthy candidate for Congress was Karti P Chidambaram at Sivaganga, the seat held by his father and Union finance minister P Chidambaram. His father’s reluctance to contest elections become a talking point in the party, which he tried to counter by accepting responsibility of the outcome. At Sivaganga, long considered as their family fiefdom, Karti finished number four, behind the AIADMK, the DMK and even the BJP.
The impact of this loss will be big on the Congress’ future, as questions will be asked about its utility as an electoral ally.
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