Chennai: Absence of staunch opposition by the KS Alagiri-led Tamil Nadu Congress Committee (TNCC) leadership to the recent release of six Rajiv Gandhi assassination case convicts was among the reasons cited by a senior office-bearer who offered to quit the party days ago and it is a pointer to the dynamics involved in the ties between the TNCC and the ruling DMK.
Congress party's R Kamaraj, who said he is "quitting his post of president" of Tuticorin North District party unit referred to the release of convicts.
"Be it the release of Perarivalan or the recent release of six convicts, nothing noteworthy was initiated by the party's State unit under Alagiri to oppose it," 62-year old Kamaraj told PTI, who is a party worker for over four decades.
Kamaraj accused TNCC chief K S Alagiri of being only involved in efforts to "protect his interests." He blamed the State unit leadership of not even organising demonstrations on key issues. "The party has only taken part in protests held by allies like the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK)." Such protests were on issues to target the BJP-led Centre and unrelated to the release of convicts. Barring the Congress party and BJP all other parties including the DMK, main opposition AIADMK and VCK welcome the release of the convicts.
To a question, Kamaraj said he has not received any intimation from the party brass on his resignation and if it has been accepted or not is not known. He had resigned on November 18 as a mark of protest against Alagiri's style of functioning and his handling of party matters. "No party leader has contacted me." Political commentator M Bharat Kumar said that it is an open secret that the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee only whimpered unlike the All India Congress Committee which boldly opposed the release of convicts.
The AICC had termed as "totally unacceptable and completely erroneous" the apex court order. The AICC has also said it would file a review petition in the Supreme Court against their release. "Very soft words like regretful were used by the TNCC and they did not even hold a protest on this issue," he said.
While the AICC initially welcomed the SC verdict upholding the 10 per cent quota for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS), it later said it would "review" its stand following suggestions from its southern leaders and the TNCC's stiff resistance was a decisive factor, he said.
"In all issues, including those related to ideology, the TNCC wants to toe the DMK's line so that its leaders could sail to victory in polls and it is becoming apparent in one issue after the other. TNCC leaders have forgotten that the EWS reservation is a product of the initiative taken by the Congress party while it was in power at the Centre." Kumar said the TNCC is completely dependent on the DMK to secure seats for its state-level leaders in elections and the party's organisational strength is confined to select regions like Kanyakumari. "Not a single Congress leader can hope to win polls to the Assembly or Parliament in any constituency without the support of DMK. This explains their silence." Recently, senior leader P Chidambaram was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha with the full backing of the ruling DMK.
He claimed the plain truth is that the nation's grand old party has "more or less become a DMK wing" in Tamil Nadu and the Congress state unit is careful to keep the ruling party brass in good humour.
"Don't forget that in 2019 a Congress functionary went to the extent of paying homage to DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi on his birth anniversary in the Tamil Nadu Congress Committee's headquarters Satyamurthi Bhavan by decorating the portrait of the late leader and such a thing was unheard of," he said.
"It is good political culture to honour leaders cutting across party lines. But it is an entirely different thing to do so in your party office." Though that office-bearer, former Chennai Deputy Mayor Karate M Thiagarajan later quit the party and joined the BJP, it mirrored the mindset of several functionaries, he said.
Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president Alagiri rejected the claim of a "soft approach" adopted by the state unit on the convicts issue since the ruling DMK is an ally. "We have conveyed our strong opposition to the release of six convicts. There is no soft approach at all. The alliance between the Congress and DMK has nothing to do with this issue," he said.
On the issue, DMK spokesperson J Constantine Ravindran said: "There is a lot of misconception. DMK has never said that they (convicts in the Rajiv case) should not be punished. They were punished. The Supreme Court released them after they spent over 30 years in prison." Their release has happened following due legal process and it was supported by the party, he said.
The Congress party intending to file a review petition in the top court against their release is a separate matter and it is understandable, he added.
In the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Congress won eight seats as an ally of the DMK, a significant share, when the party's overall performance across the country is taken into consideration. The Congress has 53 MPs in the Lok Sabha. The Congress has 18 MLAs in the 234-member Tamil Nadu Assembly. It aligned with the DMK in the 2021 Assembly polls as well.