Southern Spices Could Prove Too Hot for the Congress Palate - The New Indian Express

Southern Spices Could Prove Too Hot for the Congress Palate

Published: 30th March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 04th April 2014 12:58 PM

If Congress is seen stewing in self-inflicted misery, ahead of the polls, then a sample of this broth can be had from the typical dishes it has lined up in southern states. For the dilettante, all southern dishes may taste the same, but the difference between the Hyderabadi, Udupi, Chettinad and Malabari cuisines is marked. Thus, Congress is set to get a different taste by way of results in all the four states.

When Congress ensured there would be a UPA II at the Centre in 2009 by managing to return 206 MPs to the 15th Lok Sabha, 62 of those—30 per cent of the bench strength—came from the southern states and Union Territories of Puducherry and Lakshadweep. If punters are unwilling to take bets on the Congress crossing the 100-mark this time, there is a very valid reason.

Andhra Pradesh, that single-handedly sent 33 of those Congressmen to Lok Sabha last time, may not return enough MPs to ensure double-digit bench strength. The net gainer will not be BJP; the seats will be split largely between Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress in Seemandhra and TRS in Telangana. Sure, the BJP will pick up seats but only if it ties up with TDP.

That the die was well cast when Telangana was carved out leaving Seemandhra seething in anger against Congress is now history. Having spurned all chances of mending fences with Jagan, the gates have been thrown open for BJP to improve its showing in the coastal region and Rayalaseema but only if it aligns with TDP. Once the 25 seats in the region get carved up, Congress can but draw a blank. Telangana, with TRS breathing down its neck, can at best only divide the spoils down the middle, perhaps gain a marginal edge and hope for a double-digit finish for the Congress.

The situation is worse in Tamil Nadu where the party looks all set to do a no-show unless Puducherry spares it the blushes; this is against eight seats last time. Coming as a salve is DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s acknowledgement that his party is ready to join forces with Congress, post poll. Specially so as the initial estimates about the AIADMK sweeping the LS polls are undergoing some revision at 20-25 seats out of 39, still a massive gain over the nine seats it won in 2009.

This is a bit of a strange situation for the Tamil Nadu electorate as for the first time it is pitched to be a five-cornered poll, with AIADMK, DMK, BJP, Left and Congress leading fronts with results likely to follow that order. Curiously, with CM J Jayalalithaa a potential ally for NDA, any impact of a Narendra Modi wave is likely to eat into AIADMK vote share, just as BJP’s local allies—PMK, MDMK and DMDK; all sworn enemies of Amma—are poised to become allies in the NDA. It should not surprise anyone if both the Congress and Left fare quite poorly.

In a state where there is a serious dearth of issues, and almost every party pushes a pro-Tamil agenda, the latest decision by India to abstain from voting against Sri Lanka in the UNHRC resolution on Tamil genocide will provide another stick padded with popular sentiment to beat Congress.

It’s in this context that one will have to closely watch the position of DMK’s risen son M K Stalin who also has his eyes riveted on the 2016 Assembly elections. Because, any alliance with Congress could turn out to be a liability for him as local satraps of Congress are viewed as NPAs by this wannabe CM.

Karnataka, with a history of voting in favour of the party that rules the state, could prove a face-saver for Congress if about a dozen candidates get elected. Making the situation more attractive is that the gain, from a paltry six seats last time, will come at the expense of BJP, whose 19 seats could get whittled down. This voting pattern, if it holds good, will not only moderate the Modi effect, but also counter the re-induction of erstwhile strongman BS Yeddyurappa and the Reddys of Bellary into the BJP fold. A tall order, but many in Karnataka believe 28 seats could get carved up in an even-steven manner between Congress and BJP at a dozen each, with the Deve Gowda-led JD(S) and others picking up the rest.

Moving over to Kerala, the pendulum keeps swinging, from what was a predominantly pro-LDF sentiment in mid-February to pro-UDF about a month later and now, a slight swing in the reverse direction. Even as CPI(M) strongman Pinarayi Vijayan claims it will be a repeat of 2004, where LDF got 18 of 20 seats, and CM Oommen Chandy and other Congress stalwarts claim that UDF will better its 2009 results of 16 seats, the reality would lie somewhere in between. Barring last-minute surprises—Kerala High Court’s criticism of the CM regarding the alleged involvement of his former gunman Salim Raj in a land grab case could set the tone—the score could read 11-12 in favour of UDF, plus one in Lakshadweep. Congress could end up losing a few seats from 13 in 2009.

If the UPA is looking a disgruntled lot, it has Congress to blame as it appears short of touching 100 seats, which would translate into a 50 per cent fall over its 2009 presence in Lok Sabha. The flip side is NDA can’t start counting the far-from-hatched chicken until the regional parties, which are set to be the resultant beneficiaries, gravitate towards it as the front-runners to form the next national government.

Clearly, this south-side recipe should in a broad sense hold true for an all-India menu though the Mughlai and shakahari dietary requirements of the north have traditionally not had a palate for a southern cuisine. Given the bold new face of India, where the youth speak the same kinda lingo in WhatsApp, etc, it remains to be seen if all that will translate into a similar voting pattern. Unlikely, as Bharat is a different ball game altogether.

(vinodmathew@newindianexpress.com)

 

Interviews done by Vinod Mathew

'Will Surely Get 4-5 Seats in 2016 Assembly Polls' [BJP president V Muraleedharan]

'A Majority of Even One Seat is Still a Majority' 'Will Surely Get 4-5 Seats in 2016 Assembly Polls' [Chief Minister Oommen Chandy]

  'It's Time Parties are Brought Under RTI' 'A Majority of Even One Seat is Still a Majority' 'Will Surely Get 4-5 Seats in 2016 Assembly Polls' [Congress leader Ramesh Chennithala]

'UDF Govt Will Not Survive For Long'   'A Majority of Even One Seat is Still a Majority' 'Will Surely Get 4-5 Seats in 2016 Assembly Polls' [CPM leader Pinarayi Vijayan]

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