The Rediff Special/N Sathiya Moorthy
Seat-sharing exercises yet to take shape in Tamil Nadu
Left to itself, Tamil Nadu cannot be said to be
at the centre of political India as Uttar Pradesh
or Bihar is. But it can play the spoiler's game up front, in a
manner of speaking. Or, if you want to be more charitable, it
has moved from the centrestage of evolving Opposition politics
in the country, to playing a considerable and constructive role
in government-formation of the coalition variety at the Centre.
If Tamil Nadu pioneered coalition politics and minority governments
with its very first post-independence Congress regime of C Rajagopachari falling into the slot, it later spearheaded the anti-Congress
movement, when the DMK as a single party came to power in 1967.
And when the Hindi heartland voted in the Janata Party, Tamil Nadu
was at the forefront of the 'Indira wave' that retained
a semblance of respectability for the fallen Congress. The
rest is too recent a history to repeat.
If there are difference now, it's here; the BJP is seeking to
take the Congress's in coalition politics. But
the Tamil Maanila Congress has retained traditional
Congress voters, averaging 18 per cent even when the parent
organisation has not been in power in the state for over a generation.
And as coalition politics goes, the two alliances, respectively
headed by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the rival All India
Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam are now riven with minor
hassles, which in the case of the former has acquired mystique
proportions, thanks mainly to the stoic silence of TMC founder
G K Moopanar.
The AIADMK coalition headed by former chief minister
Jayalalitha Jayaram too is a bundle of contradictions, what with one-time
critics like the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam,
and the Pattali Makkal Katchi, not to mention the Janata
Party of erstwhile bete noire, Subramanian Swamy, are now seeking
The BJP, after playing between the DMK and
the AIADMK, behind the closed doors of the party's strategy rooms
for nearly a decade, has come out in the open, siding with Jayalalitha.
For her part, Jayalalitha is fighting her life's battle. If she
cannot stage a political comeback in the full sense of the
term, she at least wants to be seen as a political force
to reckon with in state politics. Rather, she would like to be
in the second, if not the first slot, after the DMK, both of which the TMC has been eyeing in the ascending order for the future.
If this strategy was behind Jayalalitha freely accommodating all
parties in her alliance, the AIADMK leadership now seems to have
regained some of its lost confidence with the formation and the
strengthening of the alliance in the last fortnight. Though
the cadres's mood is not exactly favourable to the BJP, MDMK and
the PMK -- not necessarily in that order -- there seems to have been
greater acceptability of the combine at the voter-level than what
the leadership had originally bargained for.
That being the case, the AIADMK has reportedly upped its stakes
in the seat-sharing exercise, from a modest 15 to 18 seats to around
25 from out of a total of 39, excluding Pondicherry's lone Lok
Sabha seat. While the party is not exactly convinced that it can
win too many seats, it wants to convey to the cadre,
its reinvigorated morale, should a victory for the BJP combine
at the national-level help post an early assembly poll in the state.
Other alliance partners too would like to derive maximum advantage
at seat-sharing, to present a bottom-line in future electoral
negotiations, whenever necessary.
If Jayalalitha is willing to forego as many seats as possible
to the BJP and the MDMK in the southern districts, where the AIADMK
used to be a strong force until the caste clashes when she
was in power, she is obliged to accommodate the PMK and the Vazhappadi
K Ramamurthy-led Tamil Nadu Makkal Congress in the
For its part, the PMK and the MDMK are also under compulsion
to ensure a six per cent voter-acceptance norm for both parties to regain the
official recognition that they lost with the 1996 poll. What
they are interested in are not just seats, but also votes, if
they cannot win. Both are confident of winning at least two
seats each -- why and how, is another story.
For all this, however, the seat-sharing exercise in the AIADMK
camp has been a smooth and progressing affair. Indications are
that Jayalalitha, who has been empowered by all the alliance partners
to decide on each one's quota, will try to strike parity among
the BJP, PMK and the MDMK, without hurting the national standing
of the first, and the cadre-strength of the other two. She will
allot the seats among them equitably, if not equally, after giving
away the Krishnagiri seat to Vazhappadi Ramamurthy -- and Madurai
to Subramanian Swamy, on which the local BJP leadership also has an eye.
If it has thus been smooth sailing of sorts for the AIADMK alliance,
nothing seems to be happening on the DMK front. After burying
the hatchet of the past months, Moopanar has done precious
little to keep the electoral alliance going. He says his silence
should be interpreted positively, but even the TMC cadres feel
restless -- not the to mention the DMK leadership.
Both the DMK and the TMC won the 17 and the 20 seats they contested
last time. Their ally, the CPI bagged the two seats allotted to it.
Now the CPI-M and the Janata Dal, which were in the MDMK
camp last time, are back in the DMK-led alliance, and have
privately staked their claims for two seats each.
With mutual suspicious still running deep between the two major
partners, DMK supremo and Tamil Nadu Chief minister M Karunanidhi
has been directing all-comers to Moopanar -- who again maintains
his silence of the past. Indications are that Moopanar is unwilling
to part with any seats for the CPI-M unless he is sure the
party will stand by the TMC in times of crises. As for the Janata
Dal, he is not too keen on sparing the Nagergoil constituency
with its traditional Congress-minded voters, where alone the JD
stands any chance.
A decision on seat-sharing in the DMK alliance will be taken
at the Karunanidhi-Moopanar level after some shadow-boxing on
both sides. Karunanidhi is said to be keen not to
ruffle the TMC's feathers. Though he is keen on
accommodating the CPI-M, he may not press
the case beyond a point. If it comes down to the crunch, he may work out an
arrangement with the CPI.
With the DMK alliance yet to commence its seat-sharing exercise and the AIADMK still assessing the impact of the newly-formed combine, no one seems to have given any thought to party manifestos and the like. The BJP has its national
slogan of 'stable government and able leader', and the AIADMK
and the rest in the alliance will target the DMK and TMC ministers
at the Centre for special criticism.
With the DMK dilly-dallying over its approach towards the
BJP, with the post-poll scenario in mind, it's only the TMC which
has held a meeting of its manifesto committee. But no decision has been taken on the shape of things to come.
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