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Sai's Take: TN heading for a one-sided verdict

By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
April 15, 2019 18:37 IST
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'Let me stick my neck out and say that Tamil Nadu will keep alive its reputation for landslide election verdicts, with the DMK front winning at least 30 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats going to the polls in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry,' says Saisuresh Sivaswamy.

DMK President M K Stalin

IMAGE: DMK President M K Stalin.

In India, especially since the onset of television, death of major personalities has always casts its shadow on electoral outcomes.

We saw in 1984 how when a huge tree fell, not only did the ground shake, but it also delivered a gigantic majority to a young sapling.

Indira Gandhi's assassination, and the unparalleled parliamentary numbers secured by her son Rajiv in the elections that followed, showed us what the loss of a towering personality can mean to the outcome.

In 1991, when Rajiv Gandhi was himself assassinated in the course of the Lok Sabha elections, its impact was enough to rescue the Congress from decimation, conferring on it enough numbers to run a minority government for full five years.

In this context, Tamil Nadu, where Prannoy Roy and team have shifted focus after Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, presents a unique picture.

Since the last election, the state has lost two of its biggest stalwarts in quick succession.

The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam lost its sole vote-catcher in Chief Minister Jayalalithaa, while the DMK lost its president M Karunanidhi soon after.

So will sympathy for the former be neutralised by sympathy for the latter? That is one of the questions looming over Tamil Nadu as it heads for the first leaderless election in living memory on Thursday, April 18.

Prannoy Roy pointed out that Tamil Nadu has the unique distinction of having a landslide verdict in 94% of the elections since 1952, a record matched by no other state.

Would the state go by precedent this time too, when both the main rivals have the second-rung generals leading them into battle?

Election verdicts are hard to forecast, and most times what passes off for informed opinion is only a guesstimate.

With that preamble, let me stick my neck out and say that Tamil Nadu will keep alive its reputation for landslide election verdicts, with the DMK front winning at least 30 of the 40 Lok Sabha seats going to the polls in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry.


Theni, vidi, vici

And one of the keenly watched constituencies in the state is Theni, hometown of Deputy Chief Minister O Panneerselvam and from where his US-educated son Raveendranath Kumar is contesting on the AIADMK ticket (external link).

There is a lot of sympathy for OPS in his hometown. Chosen by Jayalalithaa as her stand-in and sworn in as chief minister after her demise, he dreamt to break free of her coterie's shackles and paid the price.

A reunion happened thanks to a nudge from the BJP-led Centre, but it came with a demotion (minus), and the ultimate expulsion of the coterie (plus).

But the coterie is not giving up without a fight. T T V Dinakaran, nephew of Jaya's aide Sasikala, has put up a candidate from his fledgling Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam against old friend OPS's son.

If that is not enough, the DMK front has senior Congress leader E V K S Elangovan in the fray.

Will the debutant salvage the family reputation against such immense odds? Or will the Opposition drown him out on its way to a landslide?

We will know on May 23.

Kashmir ki curry

India Today TV's Rajdeep Sardesai, meanwhile, continues on his food trail, with a little bit of elections thrown in. Courtesy the programme titled Elections on my Plate, he has swung by Tamil Nadu in the deep South to Kashmir in the upper northern reaches.

And, I am glad to report, he has introduced the nation to the legendary hospitality of the Kashmiri (except on the return of Pandits to their homeland), and is being treated to generous rounds of the famed wazwan.

Rajdeep's food trails have taken him from the home of Omar Abdullah to father Farooq, to rival Mehbooba Mufti, and outlier Shah Faesal, as well as quizzing youngsters, and speaking to Rizwan Pandit's family, where I was thankful he didn't quiz them about the best place to get Kashmiri delicacies.

Mehbooba Mufti told Rajdeep of how the BJP pursued her father, the late Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, for over two months for an alliance, and had agreed to every conditionality, including safeguarding Article 370 and Article 35A, the same two articles the party in its manifesto has promised to revoke.

'Dad gave a big opportunity to Modi' to show he was a statesman, but Modi 'lacked conviction', was the daughter's summation of the NDA government.

What if the two Articles are indeed revoked? Mehbooba didn't hesitate to answer. 'Then our relationship becomes najaayaz, I shouldn't use that word, what I mean is illegitimate', as Kashmir became part of India on the basis of conditions and if the conditions were not fulfilled anymore the relationship doesn't exist, she said.

What did she think of the Modi government's efforts at uprooting terrorism, including the airstrikes on Balakot? 'I don't know about that, only some trees were uprooted, not terrorism, I am told.'

And finally, did she consider herself a proud Kashmiri, Mehbooba replied, 'I am a proud Kashmiri and also a proud Indian.'

Sai's Take

Amit Shah's calculations

Open magazine meanwhile carries an elaborate article (exteranl link) on how BJP chief Amit Anilchandra Shah is helming his party's election campaign, and in an accompanying interview has him giving his opinion on various issues facing the electorate.

What is of interest is what Shah has to say on how the BJP will make up for the shortfall it is expected to face in the Hindi heartland where it had won the bulk of the seats in 2014, a performance it is unlikely to repeat now.

'We had won only eight of the north east's 25 seats. This time, our tally will go up to 20 there. West Bengal and Odisha together account for 63 seats and we won just three in the last election... I am confident the BJP will emerge as a dominant force in Bengal, winning at least 23 Lok Sabha seats... The BJP's performance in the two states will make pundits and adversaries run for cover. And our alliance in Tamil Nadu is going to keep the BJP in good stead. We will also make impressive gains in Kerala, which had remained out of our reach.'

No gadbad in Mahagathbandan

CNN-News18's Rahul Joshi conducted an interview with Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav on how the Mahagathbandhan is faring in Bihar, especially with the divisions within Bihar's first family, what with elder son Tej Pratap sulking and threatening to work against the RJD.

On the party's own strength, the duo seemed to be in no doubt. 'We will win 39-40 seats in the state,' Tejashwi asserted (Bihar has 40 Lok Sabha seats).

'We are fighting with our full strength, we are growing, expanding, as seen from our win in the by-elections to Araria, which is not our traditional seat.'

About her elder son's rebellion, Rabri Devi said what any mother would in the circumstances. 'Our family is united, there are no divisions, and personal issues won't affect the party.'

Even Tej Pratap's threat to campaign for his own candidates and against the party's official ones in two constituencies was dismissed as 'not too important'.

Tejashwi wanted to know why the Opposition (read: NDA) was focussing so much on what is going on in his family.

'We are not asking anyone if they have fought with their wife, so why are they asking about us?'

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