CHENNAI, MARCH 4: The Sonia Gandhi effect may have helped the Congress to revive its sinking fortunes on an all-India basis, but in Tamil Nadu the party reached a new low with all the 33 candidates fielded by it including Tamil Nadu Congress Committee president K V Thangabalu forfeiting their deposits in the 12th Lok Sabha elections by polling less than one-sixth of the total valid votes polled in each constituency.
The Congress had a drastic fall from 18.26 per cent vote share in 1996 (when the AIADMK was an ally) to 5.13 per cent in 1998.
While even newly formed political outfits managed to salvage some pride by retaining the deposits in at least one of the constituencies where they contested, the 112-years old national party failed to make a mark in a state from where its star campaigner Sonia Gandhi kicked off the campaign trail.
Those sharing the dubious distinction include party stalwarts like its Thangakabalu, R Prabhu, former TNCC president M P Subramanyan, former Members of Parliament EraAnbarasu and Tindivanam Ramamurthy. Even an emotional appeal by Sonia Gandhi did not help K Jayakumar, the party's candidate in Sriperumbudur to retain his deposit as he could manage to poll just 64,944 votes of the total 6,96,327 valid votes registered.
The MGR ADMK, an ally of the Congress has also fared badly with just its leader Thirunavukkuarasu retaining his deposit in Pudukkottai. It's star candidate yesteryear actress Latha failed to retain it. The UCPI which contested in two seats also finds itself in an embarassing position.
While the CPM managed to salvage self respect in Madurai, its candidate and trade union leader A Soundararajan faced rough weather in the North Chennai cosntituency, losing his deposit.
Meanwhile, there was a swing of 12.11 per cent against the DMK-TMC-CPI front in the 1998 elections as compared to the 1996 polls when it made a clean sweep.
Although the AIADMK-led combine has secured only 4.49 per cent more votes than the rival DMK front in 1998, the former has grabbed21 seats more than the latter's nine. The DMK front has obtained 42.74 per cent of the votes and the AIADMK combine 47.23.
If one made a mechanical transfer of 1996 votes secured by the PMK, MDMK and the BJP to the AIADMK combine, the latter should secure only about 38 per cent of the votes. However, it has gained an additional 9.23 per cent.
The AIADMK-led combine has made a remarkable gain of 21.04 per cent from the 1996 position of 26.09 per cent, although the comparison could be odious in view of the AIADMK having jettisoned the weak Congress and gone in for new partners like the MDMK, PMK and BJP.
The DMK-led front secured 54.85 per cent of the popular vote in 1996, winning all 39 Lok Sabha seats in Tamil Nadu but its vote-share has now dropped to 42.74 per cent. The DMK, which has now bagged only five seats, finds its vote percentage reduced from 25.62 in 1996 to 20.43 now, a drop of 5.19. The TMC's decline is sharper from 27.00 per cent to 19.89 (7.11 per cent). The CPI, however, retains itspercentage 2.42 as against 2.33 in 1996.
For, the resurgent AIADMK, there has been a sharp rise in vote-share from a mere 7.83 per cent in 1996 to 25.91 in 1998. This has catapulted the party's seats from zero to 18.
The BJP, beginning its account in Tamil Nadu as far as Lok Sabha elections are concerned, picked up 3 seats, taking its vote percentage from 2.93 to a highly respectable 6.76.
The MDMK has had only a marginal increase in vote-share from 4.50 per cent in 1996 to 6.17 but it has netted three seats in the bargain, the first time it is gaining entry to the Lok Sabha. Likewise, the PMK, too, will make its debut in the Lok Sabha, moving up dramatically from 2.03 per cent to 5.96 per cent votes, winning four of the five constituencies it contested. The TNRC, which contested the 1996 elections as Congress (Tiwari), has had a fall in percentage from 2.23 to 1.41 but still gains a seat.
Copyright © 1998 Indian Express Newspapers (Bombay) Ltd.