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Multi-cornered fights may mean fractured mandate in TN

By N Sathiya Moorthy
April 09, 2014 14:10 IST
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J Jayalalithaa

No one at this point no one in the state is talking about a clean sweep with high victory margins that the AIADMK front won in the 2011 assembly elections. The ‘Modi factor’, as against a ‘Modi wave’, has ensured as much, says N Sathiya Moorthy.

With only two weeks left for the April 24 polling to the Lok Sabha elections, the political scene as a whole is heating up in southern Tamil Nadu. Old calculations are giving way to new ones by the hour, with the result, no major political party is sure as to whom, to woo or who will be wooing, post-poll, and are tentative at targeting electoral adversaries upfront.

Only two, rather three, propositions alone seem to hold just now. One, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam won’t be on the same page, post-poll. Two, the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party would likewise be on the same side. Third, it is difficult for the AIADMK to reconcile to a government with the Congress backing, with party supremo J Jayalalithaa having gone hammer and tongs at the latter.

It’s not the BJP, but the party’s Tamil allies in the DMDK, MDMK and the PMK, the last one to a lesser extent, are going hammer and tongs against the two ‘Dravidian majors’ as also the Congress.

The BJP, despite the ‘NaMo’ mantra still seems to be tentative about post-poll options, with the result, state party leaders would rather take extra time and efforts to explain why they are not targeting either the ruling AIADMK or the DMK in the state.

The BJP may be hoping against hope that they would not have to depend on the two ‘Dravidian majors’, and possibly their existing electoral allies from Tamil Nadu, for forming a government at the Centre. If they are able to help it, they would settle for ‘issue-based support’ from their allies in the state, particularly the MDMK, given their contradicting positions on the sensitive ‘Sri Lankan Tami issue’ and the ‘fishermen’s’ conflict’, among others. The BJP also cannot sacrifice its political base in neighbouring Karnataka for the unsure base it hopes to build up in Tamil Nadu on the vexatious ‘Cauvery water dispute’.

The tentativeness, compared with the early writing off of the Congress, which has been left with no allies in the state, has meant that the DMK and the AIADMK would target each other rather than stretch the arguments to cover the Congress, BJP, or both.

Having been a partner in the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance until a few months ago, the DMK finds any criticism of the Mamohan Singh government may boomerang on the party. Precisely for the same reason, Jayalalithaa has to keep harping back on the Congress, to re-establish a DMK link in every rally, but it does not reverberate as much.

Figure of speech

Past figures show that the BJP’s call for ‘change’ and the ‘Vajpayee factor’ brought in 6-8 percent extra votes to the pool when the party aligned with the AIADMK and the DMK respectively in the Lok Sabha polls of 1998 and 1999. The BJP could not retain the same for itself when it contested the assembly polls of 2011, and went back to the traditional sub-two per cent status.

The BJP hopes the ‘Modi factor’ may top past performances. So do the party’s allies. Apart from the consolidation of pro-Modi voters in their favour, the allies can now hope on ‘transferability’ of their votes to one another and to the BJP, too.

It is particularly so among the BJP, DMDK and the PMK in the southern districts, after DMDK’s actor-leader Vijaykanth visited MDMK’s Vaiko at the latter’s home, and campaigned for him in the latter’s Virudunagar constituency.

Yet, the fight is between the AIADMK and the DMK, the former going it alone and the latter in the company of minor Muslim and Dalit parties. Minorities plus Dalits account for 30-plus per cent in the state’s electorate, and DMK’s M Karunanidhi hopes to garner much of the former and a substantial portion of the latter by keeping communalism and secularism as his twin electoral reference-points.

Bengaluru case

Both Karunanidhi and son M K Stalin, the DMK’s star-campaigner, are also harping continuously on Jayalalithaa, both at the administrative and personal levels. They keep talking about continuing power-cuts, which she had promised to eradicate in three months before returning to power in the 2011 assembly elections.

As if to ward off 2-G scam related attacks by the AIADMK, they quote extensively on and from the court proceedings of ‘Jayalalithaa’s wealth case’ in Bengaluru, which the local media, including the national press and television channels have been sketchy in reporting about.

Jayalalithaa does not have any fresh ammunition to target the DMK. Her returning to 2G does not help. She does not want to attack the BJP. The Congress is the lame-duck, which she berates. Cadres say her campaigns are also lack-lustre hence. The party’s new strategy to indirectly acknowledge the delays on the power-front and promising early action in the months to come is yet to prove successful.

At the end of the day, the AIADMK and the DMK have a 25 per cent vote-share each. The DMK also hopes for extra mileage from the minorities-Dalit combination. While it should have been ‘anti-incumbency’ otherwise, the AIADMK hopes that being in power does have last-mile election-time advantages.

The DMK tends to agree. The party keeps pointing to superannuated police chief K Ramanujam continuing as DGP (Law and Order) despite the EC ruling to the contrary for 2011 assembly elections. That the EC has brought in a new DGP (elections) and has transferred the powerful Chennai Police Commissioner, S George, has not been fully appreciated.

In a way, the DMK is hoping that Modi would come to town ahead of the polls, while the AIADMK may not want it. Every ally wants Modi in his favourite constituency, and so do all BJP candidates. Modi may not have the time or inclination for all that.

The Congress’ fate having been sealed already, it’s either the consolidation of the ‘Modi votes’ and the division of ‘anti-DMK votes’ that seems to be at the centre of the poll calculus in Tamil Nadu. The AIADMK, which had started off with high hopes, is in a fix, thus.

Yet, with the Congress and the Communists, contesting alone and ‘wasting’ a total 10 per cent vote-share -- large and decisive by any account -- the fight for Tamil Nadu (and the lone seat from Puducherry), totalling 40 seats, may have lessons for the parties and polity, as much post-poll as now.

With a five-cornered contest in 18 seats where the Communists have their nominees, and six in up to five of them, where Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party has serious contenders, the elections this time is as none other in recent times in Tamil Nadu. Neither the political parties, nor candidates or their campaign managers have handled anything like this in recent times.

With religion and caste being the deciding-factors down the line, in the end, it could be a sweep by one party or alliance with low margin (as in the 2001 assembly elections that the AIADMK combine won hands down). Or, it could be a close-shave viz the number of seats, not individual victory margins, as in 2009 parliamentary polls.

No one at this point is talking about a clean sweep with high victory margins that the AIADMK front won in the 2011 assembly elections. The ‘Modi factor’, as against a ‘Modi wave’, has ensured as much.

Image: Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa may not get the sweeping margins that she go in the 2011 assembly polls.

N Sathiya Moorthy, a veteran journalist, is director, Observer Research Foundation (Chennai Chapter).


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