The Indian National Congress is once again heading for hara-kiri in Tamil Nadu by severing its alliance with the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam which stood it in good stead since 2004. A high command-driven party, the Congress in Tamil Nadu has no independent existence. In the recently conducted local body election in parts of Tamil Nadu, the DMK is accused of not allotting enough seats to the Congress to contest.
The DMK boycotting the Congress-convened meeting of Opposition parties against the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in Delhi was the last straw that broke the TNCC camel’s back. With election to the Tamil Nadu Assembly just a year away, the Congress can ill afford to go it alone. Except for Kannyakumari district, which continues to be a bastion of the Congress, the party is not strong enough in any of the constituencies to win on its own.
But it enjoys small vote-banks throughout the State. The DMK has been out of power for almost a decade and is desperate to capture power in 2021. Senior DMK leader S Durai Murugan said the Congress was welcome to quit the alliance his party was leading. In the recent by-election to the Lok Sabha from Vellore in which Kathir Anand, son of Durai Murugan, was the DMK candidate, he did not hesitate to enlist the support of the Congress to prevail on its member who filed his nomination as an independent candidate to withdraw from the contest.
Alliances are mutually beneficial and the DMK needs the Congress support as much as the Congress needs the DMK. After losing power to the DMK by a slender margin in 1967, the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress lost its will to regain power. It was so demoralised that it did not contest even a single seat in the following Assembly election in 1971. Ever since, it has remained content taking piggyback rides on the AIADMK or the DMK.
The AIADMK is now in the BJP camp, which rules out the Congress reviving its alliance with the present ruling party in Tamil Nadu. After its shock defeat in 1967, it waited for 10 years to contest the Assembly election in 1977, and that too as an adjunct to the AIADMK. Since then the Congress has been alternating between the DMK and the AIADMK on non-power sharing agreements with the two Dravidian majors contesting enough seats to secure majorities of their own.
The Congress had the opportunity to taste power in 2006 when its DMK ally failed to get a majority of its own but the high command magnanimously extended support from outside, much to the chagrin of its state unit that was itching for a share in power. Unless better sense prevails on the DMK, the leaderless and rudderless AIADMK can score a ‘hat trick’ by winning the 2021 Assembly election.