In a state where the two Dravidian majors still account for 60.6 per cent of the total votes polled, the BJP-NDA multi-party ‘rainbow coalition’ scrambled together a 18.5 per cent vote share, says N Sathiya Moorthy.
What is the greatest irony of this year’s elections? It is that the party winning the third highest vote share, and winning 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats in a state like Tamil Nadu, will have no say in the government at the Centre. Additionally, neither of the ‘Big Two’ in the Dravidian political pantheon will have a say or role in the government at the Centre.
For the first time since 1996 when H D Deve Gowda came to power, neither the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, nor rival Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, will have any ministerial representation at the Cente.
In a way, there is now an electoral attestation from the national voter to continue with the trend. It applies as much to ‘Amma’ -- who has registered as much a convincing win in the state as Narendra Modi did at the national level. Jayalalithaa has made the DMK rival bite the dust, and very convincingly.
For a Dravidian major contesting a Lok Sabha polls alone for the first time in decades, the ‘Jaya tsunami’, if it could be called so, came at the top with a 44.3 per cent vote-share, compared to the DMK’s inexplicably low 23.6 per cent. Yet, how did the numbers add up only in favour of Jaya and the AIADMK?
Initially, being unsure of which way the wind would blow, the AIADMK and the DMK did not target anyone else other than the ‘deadwood’ Congress. When this strategy was not found effective, Jayalalithaa was forced to draw attention to herself.
This coupled with her party dropping their two communist allies only weeks before the polls meant that the campaign focus remained exclusively on Jayalalithaa and her leadership. The DMK began its anti-Modi campaign very late in the day, which also led to the anti-AIADMK vote being split.
Later, in the day, when the AIADMK became nervous, Jaya, in hopes of injecting a strong dose of national politics, turned her guns against Modi and said, ‘In Tamil Nadu, this lady matters more than Modi’ to which DMK’s MK Stalin had retorted ‘neither Modi, nor lady, but my daddy alone will win the polls in the state’. However, that was not to be and the ‘lady’ alone swept up the polls.
Yet, the Bharatiya Janata Party-National Democratic Alliance can take consolation in the fact that the two seats that the AIADMK did not win were won one each by the BJP and their ally the Pattali Makkal Katchi.
In a state where the two Dravidian majors still account for 60.6 per cent of the total votes polled, the BJP-NDA multi-party ‘rainbow coalition’ scrambled together a 18.5 per cent vote-share.
Complete Coverage: Elections 2014
Going up against the AIADMK, all known faces and high-profile candidates fell by the way side. From a national perspective, the first one coming to mind is Karti Chidambaram, son of outgoing Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram. The highest vote-getter for the Congress party, with over one lakh votes in his father’s traditional home constituency of Sivaganga, Karti was a poor number four after the AIADMK winner, the DMK runner-up, and the BJP’s H Raja, who had in 1999 pushed father Chidambaram to the last place, by coming in second in what was at that time a three-cornered contest.
And it wasn’t just Congress candidates that had to endure humiliating upsets. The defeat of three high-profile DMK candidates in former ministers Dayanidhi Maran, A Raja of the 2G scam fame, and TR Baalu was the most surprising of all results. In all three cases, the DMK leaders lost their constituencies to AIADMK candidates
Yet, inconsolable of all electoral losses in Tamil Nadu was that of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s Vaiko. In 2009, he lost the Virudunagar constituency to Congress’s Manik Thakur and this time around, was trumped by AIADMK candidate D Radhakrishnan. All this, when the party had hoped for Vaiko to join the government at the Centre for once, particularly after Modi himself clarified midway through the poll campaign that he would give ministerial berths to all existing allies even if the BJP won a majority of its own.
The BJP can be expected to stand by the commitment, but its generosity cannot extend to get Vaiko elected to Rajya Sabha from a ‘BJP seat’ outside of Tamil Nadu. This could well mean, it’s electoral, if not political curtains down for the septuagenarian leader, whose party may not have the ‘staying power’ or continued ‘electoral reference’ to fight and win polls on another day.
Not even a ‘Modi breeze’
However, more pertinent is that despite a strong Modi wave across the country, there was hardly any proof of even a relatively ‘low Modi breeze’ in the state, as the BJP-NDA could not pull in the votes.
A charitable argument in favour of Modi and the BJP would be that the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, the dominant ally in the combine, bargained for 14 seats till the very end and eventually drew a blank in the polls. The DMDK, which had secured 10 percent vote share in 2009 general elections, saw its vote share go down to 5.2 percent.
Given the number-crunching between now and the assembly polls that are due in May 2016, the current partners of the BJP may already be thinking -- if not talking -- in terms of a political realignment. The BJP also has to think about PMK’s Anbumani Ramadoss who won the only other seat in the state from the Dharmapuri seat. They might reward Ramadoss with a ministerial berth, fearing a revolt from the party.
So would be the DMK, which will now be looking around for ‘non-family scapegoats’ for its dismal show, and follow it up with organisational elections with which it will be engaged till December, when the shock of the electoral loss would have hopefully been absorbed.
For now, DMK treasurer and more political of Karunanidhi's three children in politics, M K Stalin, who handled the poll campaign almost single-handedly, quit the post, owning up 'moral responsibility' but it was not accepted. It's more about Stalin wanting old and uncooperative fogies in the second-rung replaced by younger elements, who would also be loyal to him, and not over-shoot him in his father's shadow.
The BJP, however, can keep its options open, until at least a few months to the polls, a period punctuated possibly by the pending court cases against Jayalalithaa in Bangalore and Chennai, and against DMK leaders Maran, Raja and Kanizmozhi in Delhi, reaching decisive stages.
Thereby hangs the future of Tamil Nadu polity and elections, which will be told in the coming weeks and months!
N Sathiya Moorthy is a veteran journalist and political analyst and director of the Observer Research Foundation (Chennai chapter).