CHENNAI: The race in the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress for the post of State president is gaining momentum with leading contenders busy interacting with cadre, making public speeches and placing media advertisements. For, the person chosen as the new leader could have a major say in selection of candidates for the 2016 Assembly elections.
With the party at its lowest ebb at the national level, the stiff competition for the top job in Tamil Nadu may appear strange. But according to party insiders, anyone taking control of the State unit now can assert their independence, besides gaining a firm hold over the party’s assets, including Sathyamurthy Bhavan.
Former Union minister G K Vasan’s supporters want their leader to be given the post of TNCC president, even though the incumbent B S Gnanadesikan belongs to their camp. While Vasan is busy touring the State and meeting his supporters, his followers have launched a media campaign in leading political magazines with slogans of forming ‘Kamaraj rule’ under Vasan.
Full page advertisements hailing Vasan in some of the political magazines have become a regular feature for the last few weeks. They show the much revered former All India Congress Committee president Kamaraj and his follower G K Moopanar blessing Vasan, asking him to revive Congress rule in Tamil Nadu.
Another former Union minister P Chidambaram too is visiting several places in the State and delivering speeches stressing the importance of a popular leader heading the State unit. Also, a handful of leaders, including Peter Alphonse, H Vasantha Kumar and E V K S Elangovan have thrown their hat into the ring. While Elangovan and Alphonse are keeping a low profile and lobbying silently, Vasanthakumar, who owns Vasanth TV, is using his television channel to the maximum. Between programmes, Vasanthakumar is shown moving around with his followers, distributing welfare assistance to the poor with a song in the background hailing him as ‘a friend of the poor with generous nature’.
Vasan’s supporters say their leader enjoys wide support among the functionaries and workers. They also point out that he has rejected suggestions of quitting the Congress and reviving the Tamil Maanila Congress formed by his father. Besides, he can revive his family contact with DMDK leader Vijayakant and form a strong alliance in Tamil Nadu, they claim.
Chidambaram too is sending signals that he has the capability to build bridges with the DMK, besides being a seasoned politician with hands on experience in the Union ministries of finance and home.
Alphonse has the prospects of emerging as a consensus candidate. Another factor working in his favour is his religion, if the Congress high command wants to garner minority support in Tamil Nadu.
But the supporters of Vasanthakumar are confident that the high command will reward those who courageously faced the 2014 Parliament elections at a time when senior leaders chickened out and chose to opt out.
He contested the Kanyakumari seat and gave a good fight to BJP leader Pon Radhakrishnan, they recalled. Besides, he comes from the influential Nadar community, who are seen as traditional supporters of the Congress, the loyalists added.