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Home > News > Report

Tamil Nadu heading for coalition government?

March 14, 2006 17:57 IST

Is Tamil Nadu heading for coalition government for the first time after a gap of 55 years?

The question looks relevant considering the seat sharing pacts inked by the two major Dravidian parties in Tamil Nadu - the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam - with their alliance partners in the run up to the May 8 assembly elections.

With the DMK contesting the lowest number of seats in the last 25 years, the emergence of a coalition in the event of a hung assembly looks possible.

After allocating 105 seats to its allies, the DMK is left with 129 seats and faces the huge task of registering a 91.5 per cent success rate to win at least 118 seats to form the government on its own.

Riding on a strong anti-incumbency wave, the party clocked 95 per cent success rate in the 2001 assembly polls. But this time, in the absence of any such perceptible factor, the DMK appears to have taken a huge gamble by restricting its tally to 129.

"You may be correct in saying we have taken a risk of contesting only 129 seats, but the rainbow alliance will help the party sweep the polls and win at least 200 to 210 seats," a senior DMK leader says.

In the 2001 elections, the AIADMK with the help of its allies - the now defunct Tamil Maanila Congress, Congress, Pattali Makkal Katchi, Communist Party of India (Marxist) and Communist Party of India, secured 1.4 crore votes against DMK's 1.08 crore votes.

The Congress, PMK and the Left will adequately compensate the shortfall of 32 lakh votes, he says.

Even by conservative estimates, the DMK-led front enjoys about 50 per cent of votes compared to AIADMK's 38 per cent, including Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's share of four per cent, the leader contends.

Whether the nascent Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, floated by actor Vijayakanth, goes on its own or aligns with the AIADMK, it will not dampen the victory prospects of the DMK-led Democratic Progressive Alliance, he argues.

All these years, the AIADMK and the DMK, which led the two major fronts in the state, had contested 140-plus seats to get the adequate comfort level of forming government on their own. But 25 years down the memory lane, the DMK was contesting its lowest number of seats, though it was expected to vie at least 135 seats, especially after the exit of MDMK from the DPA.

When the AIADMK headed a similar alliance in the 2001 assembly poll, it contested 140 seats and won 132. Left with Bharatiya Janata Party and other minor parties, the DMK fought in 167 seats and won only 27. The MDMK, which went on its own, fielded candidates in 211 constituencies and drew a blank.

This time the alliance pattern has undergone sea change. Instead of contesting 140 seats, the DMK has been liberal with its allies - the Congress, PMK CPI(M), CPI and Indian Union Muslim League, allocating as many as 105 seats to them.

Political observers say the DMK being left with 129 seats was a big risk and biggest political gamble ever for taken by the party as it can provide only a slim margin. However, another school of thought says the Tamil Nadu electorate has always given a clear mandate to one party or the other except in 1951 when no party could secure even a simple majority.

However, since then there has been only single party rule in the state. In 1951, the CPI emerged as the single largest party, pushing the Congress to the second position. But former Chief Minister Rajaji installed a Congress-led coalition government with the support of Common Wheel Party and Peasant and Toilers Party.

When the DMK and the Congress sought a mandate for a coalition government in 1980 assembly elections by equally sharing the 234 seats, people rejected the proposal by voting back the AIADMK. It was in this election that it became clear that Tamil Nadu people always voted differently for the Lok Sabha and assembly polls as just couple of months ago, they overwhelmingly voted for the DMK-Congress combine.

When the then Indira Gandhi government dismissed the MGR government and sought a fresh mandate, joining hands with the DMK, the people, reversing their stand, voted differently in the assembly poll and brought back MGR.

But this time, the going will be tough, says BJP senior leader M Venkaiah Naidu who predicts that neither of the two fronts will bag a majority. There will be a fractured mandate and the state could head for a hung assembly, he predicts.

CPI leader D Pandian, a constituent of DPA is also not willing to rule out the possibility of people giving a fractured verdict. "Even the weather experts failed to predict the tsunami and what will happen in this election, no one can predict," he says.

While the DMK had completed seat sharing agreements and had began the process of identifying the constituencies for its allies, the AIADMK was yet to finalise its alliance partners.

The AIADMK, which took a lead, when it signed a seat-sharing pact with the Dalit Panthers of India has so far signed up with MDMK for 31 seats and some minor parties. It is not clear whether Vijayakanth's DMDK will join the AIADMK Front.


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