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Wednesday, July 06, 2022

As its TN chief says alliances ‘weakening Cong’, party leaders ask who is to blame

Clarifying his remarks in an interview to The Indian Express, Alagiri noted that the Congress first entered into alliances in Tamil Nadu, whose politics is dominated by the big two of the DMK and AIADMK, about 30 years back.

Written by Arun Janardhanan |
Updated: May 24, 2022 8:14:25 pm
Tamil Nadu Congress chief K S Alagiri. (Photo: Twitter/@KS_Alagiri)

Tamil Nadu Congress chief K S Alagiri’s statement that the party has been weakened in the state due to alliance politics may have been a lament at the low representation for the party in the DMK government in the state. However, it has opened a can of worms against the Congress leadership, with many party workers blaming it and Alagiri in particular for the state of affairs.

Clarifying his remarks in an interview to The Indian Express, Alagiri noted that the Congress first entered into alliances in Tamil Nadu, whose politics is dominated by the big two of the DMK and AIADMK, about 30 years back. “Unfortunately, the party has neither developed nor benefited from this alliance politics. I think this is not only a problem for the Congress but also other parties,” he said.

Though Alagiri clearly meant to underline that his statement was not in reference to the Congress’s present alliance with the DMK, but its long-term politics in the state, party leaders pointed out that it was he who had stalled at least one move to fight polls alone.

A veteran Congress leader said: “When Rahul Gandhi came to Tamil Nadu for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, he suggested that the Congress go it alone in the local body elections that were coming up next. But Alagiri rejected the idea. We would not have won many seats, but we would have at least registered a presence at the grass-roots, and given our youths a chance to contest for the party.”

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Another senior leader and member of a party working committee also questioned Alagiri’s statement, as compared to his actions. “Take the 25 seats we contested from in the 2021 Assembly polls. Many of the tickets were allotted to legacy families, sons and relatives of senior Congress leaders. If Alagiri was so worried about a party in decline, he would have given those seats to deserving candidates, real Congress workers. So I don’t take him seriously, he cites the wrong reasons for the party’s decline,” the leader said, suggesting that Alagiri himself has a stake in the status quo, with personal interests of certain leaders protected.

AICC member and long-time Congress leader Americai Narayanan, known for speaking his mind, said that over the years, party leaders have failed to fight for the party. “Even when the DMK didn’t have a majority on its own, Congress leaders in the state did not demand Cabinet positions in the government they supported… From the party’s perspective, the top leaders who have handled crucial alliance talks with Dravidian majors have often protected their own interests instead of the party’s. So, if the Central leadership is accused of sacrificing the interests of the state unit, the state leaders too have sacrificed the interests of the party. ”

At the same time, Narayanan added, the bitter reality was that a diminished Congress could not win “a single seat in Tamil Nadu if it contested alone” now. Lamenting the state of the party, he said: “Like all critics of Narendra Modi are dubbed anti-national, anyone who criticises the Gandhi family is dubbed anti-Congress. These unfortunate scenarios have weakened the party.”

In the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly, the Congress has 18 MLAs, against the DMK’s 125.

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Sasikanth Senthil, a former IAS officer who is a coordinator with the Tamil Nadu Congress, said the immediate problems facing the country are “communalism and divisive politics”, and that the alliances forged by the Congress have to be seen in that light. “The reason I resigned from my job to enter politics was to tackle this problem through a coalition of different partners. The question is how we can come together and do better, leaving none behind but uniting everyone. I believe that is the role of the Congress. The primary role of the Congress in Tamil Nadu is to help resist the attempts of the BJP, as well as extreme Tamil nationalism.”

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