The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Salvo at Sonia jolts TN Cong

Chennai, Sept. 8: ADMK chief Jayalalithaa’s anti-Sonia outburst has stirred the Tamil Nadu Congress out of its slumber.

Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president E.V.K.S. Elangovan, who ensured a relatively problem-free merger with the Tamil Maanila Congress at Madurai last month, continues to keep up the political heat against the ruling ADMK.

A day after chief minister Jayalalithaa came out with her strongest attack yet against Sonia, exhorting all self-respecting Congressmen to free their party from the “clutches of a foreigner”, a host of state Congress heavyweights, including several former presidents of the state unit, threw their weight behind Elangovan in a rare show of solidarity for launching a counterattack.

Congress spokesperson Jaipal Reddy, whom Jayalalithaa singled out for attack at her recent press conference, will preside over the merger of old Kamaraj followers in the state Janata Dal under G.A. Vadivelu with the Congress in Chennai on September 23.

Pradesh Congress sources said the Congress must come to terms with the erosion of its traditional vote-banks in the state, which included the major OBCs such as the Thevars, the Vanniyars, the Dalits and the minorities. The polarisation of the Thevars towards the ADMK had substantially eaten into the Congress voter base in Tamil Nadu.

The late G.K. Moopanar tried in vain to bring the Dalits under a broad Congress-led fold. Congress party sources said it was time that TNCC an AICC functionaries took stock of the ground realities in Tamil Nadu, particularly after Jayalalithaa’s declaration that the Congress didn’t “even have a ghost of a chance” to return to power in the state.

The Congress’ steady erosion in the popular vote is apparent from poll statistics since 1967, sources said. The party was reduced to an Opposition with 50 MLAs in the 234-member Assembly that year following the DMK debut to power.

According to the Election Commission, the former had polled a marginally higher percentage of votes at 41.38 per cent, against the fledgling DMK’s 40.59 per cent.

The Congress (O) under Kamaraj won only 15 seats in the 1971 Assembly polls, but still notched 34.99 per cent of the total votes. The Congress under Indira Gandhi had allied with the DMK that year and did not even contest the Assembly polls in return for some Lok Sabha seats.

The Congress in Tamil Nadu witnessed a steady downward slide ever since. Though Moopanar merged the Congress (O) with the Congress (I) at a massive rally in Chennai in 1976, the party’s total percentage of votes dropped to 17.51 per cent in the 1977 Assembly elections.

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