Sunday, May 17, 2009

My Take on the Poll outcome from Tamil Nadu

The AIADMK-led alliance was expected to do much better than it did from Tamil Nadu. The logic of alliance arithmetic was behind this expectation. J.Jayalalitha, after all, had managed a pre-poll alliance that consisted of the PMK, considered strong in the Northern part of Tamil Nadu as well as the MDMK and the two Left parties with a thin but stable voter-base across the state. And by endorsing the demand for a Tamil Eelam, in her party’s manifesto, she seemed to ride a wave.

The crowds that gathered at the meetings by Eelam supporters where the speakers categorically called for a vote against the DMK-Congress candidates suggested that Jayalalitha will end up determining the course of Government formation in Delhi.

The poll outcome, however, bears out that the tragic events in Sri Lanka, which certainly is a humanitarian tragedy involving the Tamil speaking people, did not determine the choice of the voters. The defeat of Vaiko from Virudhunagar as well as the fall of all the seven candidates of the PMK reflects this. The MDMK chief, after all, had emerged as the face of the Tamil Eelam cause and the PMK chief too had been speaking up on similar lines for almost a decade now. Notwithstanding the fact that they have done precious little while holding offices in the Union government.

The MDMK and the CPI (M) had won one seat each. And that could be credited to the alliance that the two parties had with the AIADMK. These two constituencies – Erode and Coimbatore) happen to be in the Western region of Tamil Nadu where the ruling DMK-led Front could win just one constituency; Nilgiris won by Union Minister A.Raja. Union Minister and Congress candidate, E.V.K.S.Elangovan, must be regretting the fact that he happened to contest from that region. And same is the case with another Congress favourite, R.Prabhu. The AIADMK has pretty much managed to retain its hold in this region. The party had more or less swept the polls from here in the 2006 elections to the State assembly too.

The other big message from the results is the decimation of the PMK. After having managed to be on the winning side each time since 1998, Dr. S.Ramadoss never seemed to have an occasion to sense the erosion of his support base. The DMK-led combine, meanwhile, appears to have benefited immensely from its alliance with the VCK. Thol. Thirumavalavan, who has won the Chidambaram Lok Sabha constituency could also ensure that the DMK win a number of seats in the Northern parts of Tamil Nadu. Union Minister T.R.Baalu owes his victory in Sriperumbudur to the alliance with the VCK. Recall the resistance from sections in the Tamil Nadu Congress to the inclusion of the VCK in the combine! Thirumavalavan’s pro-Eelam stance had offended them.

Well. The TNCC chief, Thangabalu could not benefit out of any of these. The same is the case with Union Minister Mani Shankar Aiyer. Salem and Thanjavur are among the constituencies where the VCK has emerged into a force as much as the PMK. It could be that that VCK’s cadre decided to ensure transfer of their votes in a selective manner. Those who objected to the VCK being taken into the fold seemed to have paid the price.

The DMK’s impressive performance, meanwhile, can be attributed to the performance of the State Government. The revamped Public Distribution System (PDS) in the State ensured that the larger sections of the middle and the lower middle classes were taken care when prices of essentials soared high (some months ago) seems to have helped the party. The fact is that the State Government had included pulses and spices in addition to rice at Re.1 a kg for distribution through the PDS. The sub-tract of the poll outcome story is that of M.K.Azhagiri’s election from Madurai. The impact of this on the dynamics of the DMK’s affairs will unfold in the months ahead.

It is another matter that the DMK lost the South Chennai constituency. It seems that the story of Chennai being the DMK’s citadel is no longer true. This fact and along with the AIADMK’s wins from the Western region as well as in other places (adding up to the 9 seats for the party alone) is a clear enough signal that Jayalalitha may be down but not out. The AIADMK continues to be a force across Tamil Nadu and it’s weakest link seems to be in the Southern districts; a part of the State where the party seemed invincible until some years ago. The party began losing elections from the Southern districts in May 2004 and the trend continues.

The shock, so to say, from Tamil Nadu, is the outcome from Sivaganga. P.Chidambaram did win. But only after two rounds of recounting and with a slender margin of a little over three thousand votes. He had lost from Sivaganga in 1999 to a not-so-well-known Sudarsana Nachiappan then. But then, Chidambaram was all alone then. He contested as the Tamil Maanila Congress candidate. The Congress party, then, had an alliance with the AIADMK and the DMK with the BJP. His defeat then was expected. It is a different story now. Chidambaram just scraped through even while the DMK nominee, M.K.Azhagiri in neighbouring Madurai registered an emphatic victory and the impressive performance of the front that he was a part.

There is also a larger message from the poll results in Tamil Nadu. The political discourse in Tamil Nadu is not going to remain bi-polar. The substantial chunk of votes that actor Vijayakanth’s Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam has polled across the State is a signal towards the arrival of a third force in the State’s political scene. The DMDK
has the potential to emerge as the pivot of a political front to take on the DMK and the AIADMK when elections to the assembly are held in May 2011.


Anonymous Subbu said...

Sir, but why do you think the Eelam issue has not appealed to voters?

And do you think money had an impact on voters?

12:03 AM  
Blogger Jiby said...

Sir, could AIADMK's loss also be attributed to being a one-leader party while the DMK has cultivated a strong second rung? I can come up with atleast 10 known DMK names but even after a year of living in TN, I don't know of a single AIADMK leader besides JJ.

Sheh...wish I was in Chennai now...would have loved to go over the elections with you.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The poll outcome, however, bears out that the tragic events in Sri Lanka, which certainly is a humanitarian tragedy involving the Tamil speaking people, did not determine the choice of the voters."

Well, this proposition is not right. In Sivaganga constituency as many as twenty Tamil nationalist groups worked at a grass root level distributing CDs and highlighting the plight of suffering Tamils in Sri Lanka to the voters to make sure that Chidambaram is defeated. The very fact that he had to struggle to earn his victory points to the importance of Sri Lankan issue here. Also prominent Congress leaders lost because of awareness among people that it is Congress party that is responsible for suffering of Tamil civilians in Sri Lanka.
Also, DMK has been vehement voice of Sri Lankan Tamils for long time and do you think people of Tamilnadu will forget it just because Jaya voiced for Ealam during elections? In terms of protests it is the DMK that staged series of demonstrations across state for the cause of Sri Lankan Tamils.
You seem to be very short sighted in your understanding of poll outcome in TN.
You have over rated VCK in your write-up. Please keep in mind that VCK won only one seat out of two and that the Dalit population is never a majority in any of the constituency other than the reserved ones and that their impact in the outcome will only be minimal.
The fact of the matter as far as the loss of PMK is concerned is that Vanniyar caste organizations have decided not to vote for PMK because of selfish politics of Ramadoss. The Vaniyar caste organizations passed resolutions not to vote for PMK this time and that dictated the poll outcome.
You cannot undermine money and muscle power for the victory of ruling party in state especially when rowdies like Azhagiri rule the southern districts. You must go to Madurai to realize the kind of feudal politics that is being practiced. So your proposition that DMK led alliance won because of the performance of state govt is also wrong and flawed.

9:38 AM  
Anonymous Subbu said...

Sir, I think Jiby is right. When MK fell ill Stalin took over the campaign easily.

Jaya's concept of exhorting party workers to think that she is contesting from every constituency is an example of how the party is being run.

This approach has pretty much drained the party of committed cadre and capacity at the local level. There have been complaints of bad poll-day management in many constituencies.

Post-poll reports from party cadre indicate that wherever the party has won it is because of poll-day and counting-day management.

One example, is Tiruvallur where allegedly the results were reluctantly announced in favour of the AIADMK only after the cadre surrounded the counting centre and threatened to not let anyone out if the results were not announced.

The centralisation and control are so bad that even elected MPs of the party refuse to talk to the media.

Moreover, although there was a clear anti-incumbency mood combined with the Eelam issue, Jayalalithaa was not able to effectively utilise it.

There were murmurs in the party at the height of the campaign that she needs to act on the Eelam issue somehow and not restrict herself to rhetoric.

I would think lack of political imagination killed her chances.

11:01 PM  
Anonymous vijay kishor said...

Sir; i have read almost all your articles which is available on net including article on Pratibha Patil's presidentship, open letter to Prakash Karat etc.Your endeavour really facinates me.Sorry sir, i m not going to comment on this article because i m not very much aware of Tamilnadu politics but i want to draw your attention on judiciary and i think that judicial reforms, accountbility, corruption in judiciary and most importantly some judicial pronouncement that simply shows " class character and captalist mindset " of higher judiciary are the issues that need urgent calling.i hope that i will find your views on this issue in near future.if u already have some plz. sent it on Thanking you Vijay Kishor, Campus Law Centre, University of Delhi

2:05 AM  
Blogger V. Krishna Ananth said...

Subu, Jiby and the anonymous, Sorry I was travelling and hence did not spend as much time before the computer. I think there is some substance in all that you guys have said...

And Vijay Kishor... you are right about the judiciary. I am working on that subject for a larger project... will write on that also but later... much later

6:34 AM  

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