The Assembly election results of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa have provided one major takeaway for Tamil Nadu: regional parties need unity and a prime ministerial candidate going into the 2024 general election.
While the DMK has already accepted Congress leader Rahul Gandhi as that candidate, it is doubtful whether other parties would extend the same support, political observers say.
“The Congress by itself is not the sole reason for the defeats as, many claim. Instead, it is the lack of unity among the parties that results in failure. However, it is the Congress’ duty to bring parties together,” says senior journalist Tharasu Shyam.
“There are two lessons here. One for regional parties and the other fornational parties. The BJP should become more flexible in its relationship with states where it is not in power. It withdrew the three farm laws (following year-long protests). Likewise, it should show some flexibility in issues like Kashmir,” he says.
The Congress should realise that it electoral assessments in states are often faulty, as can be seen from the latest results, Shyam adds.
“In Uttar Pradesh the Congress will not accede to the Samajwadi Party’s demands because Priyanka Gandhi has put a lot of effort there. Her ego wouldn’t have accepted giving as many seats as demanded by (SP leader) Akhilesh Yadav. But one leader alone cannot bring victory. There needs to be machinery on the ground so that consolidation becomes easier,” Shyam adds.
Defeating Hindutva forces
Rajan Kurai Krishnan, a Dravidian ideologue and professor, School of Culture and Creative Expressions, Ambedkar University, New Delhi, says until North Indian parties take up “non-Brahminical” politics, they cannot defeat Hindutva forces like the BJP.
“In Tamil Nadu instead of talking about ‘backward class politics’, the DMK has focused on ‘non-Brahminical politics’. When you say ‘non-Brahminical’ it brings the BCs and scheduled castes together, cutting across communal lines. In UP the parties are interested in backward class politics,” he says.
The BJP has used a similar logic of 80:20 to consolidate the Hindu vote, according to Krishnan.
“It is evident that the Congress is weak. However, it will remain a glue to keep alliance parties together to face the 2024 election. The DMK will not think of leaving the alliance. Can the opposition alliance rope in Aam Aadmi Party. That is yet to be seen,” he adds.
The Congress will not be able to compete without cadre-level organisational set-up, says psephologist P Ramajayam.
“They are still stuck in the olden days of the Congress. They need to build a cadre base. But in many states that’s not happening,” he says.
Shyam says these results will have much bearing on the presidential election in July.
“In that election the state legislators will vote and the value of their vote is decided by the population of their particular state. If the BJP gets a sufficient number of MLAs in UP, it’s fine for them. If not, the regional parties will have a smoother time,” he says.
“As far as the DMK is concerned, it cannot thrive on anti-BJP agenda. If they don’t fulfil their promises, the people will reject them. To fulfil the promises they need money. To get money they need to depend on the Union government. So they have to be ready for some compromises. Therefore, it is imperative for the DMK to use the presidential election well,” Shyam adds.
Do welfare schemes have any effect?
Ramajayam says in order to fight anti-incumbency, it is essential for a party to implement welfare schemes. Though welfare schemes by themselves do not bring victory, they definitely help, he says.
Shyam, however, credits the “cow politics” of the BJP for the UP win. “This victory is not a clean certificate for Yogi Adityanath or the BJP. It is only a conditional certificate,” he says.