The recently concluded Bihar elections has exposed the Indian National Congress as a weak link in the alliance led by Rastriya Janata Dal (RJD). Despite party chief Tejashwi Yadav's electrifying campaign and an impressive performance by the Left, the alliance faced failure against the Janata Dal (United) - BJP combination, as the Congress could win only 19 of the 70 seats it contested in.
This worrying performance has not gone unnoticed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam(DMK) in Tamil Nadu, which is set to contest the 2021 assembly elections, with Congress in its alliance. While a few DMK leaders and sources close to party chief MK Stalin are confident this will give the Dravidian party more leverage during the seat sharing agreement, other senior leaders believe the voting pattern in Bihar will not reflect on the Congress' performance in Tamil Nadu.
"We already hold some level of leverage because we gave the Congress 10 seats in the Lok Sabha elections. This was already planned with the intention to hold back when the Assembly elections roll around," says a source in the DMK. "And their performance in Bihar will only provide further leverage," he adds.
For the DMK, the Bihar elections were reminiscent of their loss in the 2016 assembly elections, where Congress managed to win only 8 of the 41 seats it contested in. The DMK, which was the alliance leader, won 89 of 178 seats while the ruling party AIADMK won 136 of the 227 seats it contested in. Several leaders believed then that the alliance with the Congress cost the party heavily.
"Congress continues to demand atleast 3000-5000 votes in southern districts of the state. And the DMK needs a national partner to ally with," says the DMK source. "But while they always demand for a lot of seats to satisfy the multiple factions within the Congress, they don't have the money or muscle power to back this up with a definite win," he adds.
A source close to Stalin tells TNM that irrespective of the Bihar elections, the Congress was not going to get as many seats as it did in the last elections. Their performance in the last TN assembly elections along with their losses in Madhya Pradesh, the Uttar Pradesh bye-polls and Gujarat bye-polls have all left alliance partners on the edge.
A few senior leaders in the DMK however, are still willing to give the national party a chance and believe that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections are a sign of their success in Tamil Nadu.