TNCC chief Elangovan resigns. What does this mean for the Congress?
Tamil Nadu Congress chief EVKS Elangovan has resigned, taking responsibility for the party's poor showing in the recent Assembly elections. It won just eight seats out of the 41 it contested despite an alliance with the powerful DMK which ended up with a tally of 89.
Considering that the Congress' fortunes at the state and the national level are at a low ebb, DMK president M Karunanidhi gave it more seats than it deserved. This was partly to preserve his good equation with Sonia Gandhi and partly to prevent the Congress from going towards the AIADMK.
This is not the first time that a PCC chief has had to go following a poll debacle. But Elangovan is the only one in recent times who has held on to the job for nearly two years in the face of constant complaints to the high command by various factions, right from the time he assumed office in November 2014.
The faction leaders stepped up their complaints to the high command after the recent elections.
They contended that despite being allotted 41seats, Elangovan did not get the constituencies where the Congress is strong like Sivaganga (P Chidambaram's constituency), Cheyyar and others.
Following a series of complaints, Elangovan was summoned to New Delhi last week. There he met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, who is reported to have expressed his displeasure. Elangovan could not meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Realising that his days were numbered, he pre-empted his removal by submitting his resignation, according to party spokesman Gopanna.
The high command wants to bring about a change of guard ahead of the civic elections due in a couple of months.
Even before the elections, there were a spate of complaints that he was not taking along leaders of other factions like P Chidambaram, former PCC chiefs KV Thangkabalu and Krishnaswamy and two-time MLA Vasanth Kumar.
In fact, Vasanth Kumar and Vijayadharani, were among the MLAs to be voted back in the elections. Both contested from Kanyakumari where the Congress has a base and politics there is influenced by neighbouring Kerala.
Grand-nephew of Dravida Kazhagam founder "Periyar" EV Ramasamy, Elangovan was known for being outspoken. His earlier stint as state party chief was also marked by controversy.
This time, it reached a new low with party's women wing members lodging a police complaint which did not go down well with the high command.
The names doing the rounds for the post of new PCC chief are Peter Alphonse and Vasanth Kumar.
Chidambaram is not interested in getting into local politics, though many say he would make a good PCC chief . But then he does not have much of a following and his son Karthi Chidambaram is implicated in corruption cases.
A history of factionalism
Factionalism has been the bane of the Tamil Nadu Congress and this is one of the reasons why it has not been able to come back to power after the DMK ushered in Dravidian rule way back in 1967.
After the great split of 1969, Indira Gandhi aligned with the DMK in 1971 to put her rival K Kamaraj in his place.
After his passing, the party never had a powerful regional leader. In fact, the last time the party got the highest percentage vote of 44 per cent was when the Old Congress led by Kamaraj contested against the Congress-DMK combine in 1971.
After his death, his loyalists including GK Moopanar migrated to the Indira Congress as it was then known.
Moopanar held the view that the party would never grow as long as it rode piggy back on either the DMK or the AIAMDK for the sake of a few Lok Sabha seats and subordinated the state unit's interests. Rajiv Gandhi gave him a chance to prove his go-it-alone policy, and the party won 27 seats in 1989, the same as the number of seats won by the Jayalalithaa faction of the AIADMK.
Not satisfied with the results, Rajiv promptly sacked him as PCC chief and appointed in his place his arch rival Vazhapadi K Ramamurthi who also had a chequered career.
In the 1996, the state party split over an alliance with the "corrupt" AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa. The breakaway Tamil Manila Congress, led by Moopanar, scored a resounding victory in alliance with the DMK. But Moopanar could not sustain the party after the DMK moved towards the BJP in 1999. He died in 2000 after virtually deciding to take the party back to the parent Congress.
Ironically, his son G K Vasan who was a minister in the UPA Government quit the Congress and revived the TMC after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The revived TMC drew a blank in the election and its senior leaders moved to greener pastures.
The Congress can draw comfort from the poor show by the TMC.