Chennai: To be precise, 54 days have passed since firebrand Tamil Nadu Congress president E.V.K.S Elangovan resigned after the poor showing in the May 16 Assembly elections.
The faction-ridden party unit is still without a head. The All India Congress Committee, which has shown keen interest in appointing office bearers to even district committees in distant Assam and Uttarakhand, seems comfortable enough being in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of Tamil Nadu politics even 50 years after it was forced out of power.
If the AICC was finding it difficult to fill the void left by Mr Elangovan, widely credited for preventing a vertical split in the Tamil Nadu Congress after one of its senior leaders G.K. Vasan revived the Tamil Maanila Congress, the factional feud for which the state unit has been famous in the last few decades and former Union finance minister P. Chidambaram throwing his hat in the ring made things even tougher for the high command.
The result: none in the AICC, including general secretary Mukul Wasnik who is supposed to ratchet pressure on the high command, is interested in cleaning up the mess the Tamil Nadu Congress has landed itself in. Tamil Nadu Congress leaders feel none in the AICC is interested in putting pressure on the high command to have a new leader soon, despite the fact that the local body elections are just two months away. Though the Congress would cling on to the DMK, party leaders say they need a TNCC president to get things going in the state unit. “How can we function headless for eternity? No one really knows when a new chief will be appointed?” a senior Tamil Nadu Congress leader told Deccan Chronicle.
There was a flurry of activity at the AICC a fortnight after Mr Elangovan resigned with leaders of all factions camping in New Delhi and lobbying for the ‘top post’. Even Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi seemed quite interested in filling the post immediately, but all efforts seem to have gone in vain when Mr Chidambaram suddenly entered the fray, sources in the AICC said.
“The high command was preoccupied with UP and other states and now Madam (Sonia Gandhi) has taken ill. Also, it looks like the high command is taking its time to convince Mr Chidambaram that heading a state unit was below his stature since he has served as Union finance and home minister and was one of the party’s top leaders in the Rajya Sabha,” a senior leader in the know-how told Deccan Chronicle. AICC leaders feel Mr Chidambaram should not be confined to one state since the party is banking on seniors like him to take on the Narendra Modi Government at the national level.
Highly placed sources said the Congress was veering towards announcing as the successor to Mr Elangovan the AICC Secretary S Thirunavukarasar, who had his political grooming in Dravidian parties, but backed out since there was intense opposition to him being named for the post. “Almost all factions agreed that either Sudharsana Natchiappan or Peter Alphonse could head the TNCC.
But there has been no movement from there,” another leader in AICC said.
The long delay in finding a successor to Mr Elangovan has not gone down well with the second rung leaders who accuse the party high command of “step-motherly” treatment towards Tamil Nadu. “Why there is no interest? Probably this was for the first time that birth anniversary of K Kamaraj was observed by the TNCC without a president. Why such an attitude? There is no dearth of leadership in the Tamil Nadu Congress and the high command could have easily found someone in two months,” a senior office bearer of the TN Congress said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Another leader said the high command should appoint either Mr Natchiappan or Mr Alphonse since both of them have been “loyal” Congress workers and know state politics and nuances very well. “Congress would be well off in the state if one of them becomes TNCC president,” the leader said.
The party has been out of power since 1967, when it lost badly to the then fledgling DMK, and has been playing the second fiddle to Dravidian majors since then, resulting in steady decline of its vote bank in the past few years....