The AIADMK chief, Ms. J. Jayalalithaa is said to have worked hard to exclude Vaiko’s MDMK from the front she now leads because she was assured of a large donation from a business house in that event. Well. Notwithstanding the absurdity, such tales do the rounds with none raising doubts. It sounds absurd because there is no credible reason as to why should Vaiko be seen as a thorn in the flesh by any business house. The MDMK chief, after all, is not known as a crusader against anyone of the business houses. He is, in fact, known to have compromised on many issues for the sake of being in the AIADMK led front.
That none in the AIADMK front spoke for Vaiko is indeed a commentary. All those parties, now with Jayalalithaa, are there to preserve themselves rather than any common programme. And as for Vaiko, his party’s strength was tested in 1996, the first ever elections after it was founded. The MDMK then consisted of several leaders who led the DMK in the various districts and had revolted against M.Karunanidhi to jin Vaiko. But then, the MDMK was mauled in the polls. Vaiko himself had contested for both the Lok Sabha and the State assembly in May 1996 and lost both the contests. And in the 15 years since then, he has been with both the AIADMK and the DMK and even while his party won seats in the Lok Sabha and the assembly, most leaders who walked out of the DMK with him had returned to where they came from. Vaiko’s isolation and the sense of helplessness is indeed a consequence and Jayalalithaa seemed to have known this when she offered him lesser number of seats than she did to either of the two left parties!
For want of a credible explanation as to why did the AIADMK-MDMK alliance break down and the fact that the talks between the two parties were held, as is now the rule everywhere, behind closed doors rather than after a public debate on policies, it is inevitable that rumours form the basis for a discussion. A rational explanation for the split, however, would be that the AIADMK chief was convinced that Vaiko is dispensable after she managed to have Vijayakant’s DMDK in her fold. She had done her arithmetic well in 1998 and in 2001. The AIADMK along with the DMDK, the two Left parties and a few smaller outfits in the fold seems to add up to over 45 per cent of the votes and certainly more than the combined vote-share of the DMK-Congress-PMK front. The PMK was part of the AIADMK fold in May 2009. But lost in all the seven Lok Sabha constituencies it contested even while the AIADMK did well.
The most important accretion to the AIADMK front is Vijayakant. The DMDK was less than a year old when it faced the first elections in May 2006. In a polity that had witnessed political fragmentation to such extent where caste based outfits have tended to determine poll outcomes in a big way, the DMDK secured close to 10 per cent of the votes even while it posed as a party that cut across castes. The party did retain its vote-share in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections too. But then, its performance could be explained as reflecting the quest for an alternative, among a section in Tamil Nadu, to limited choice between the DMK and the AIADMK. That indeed was Vijayakant’s claim too. The film hero seemed to have realized that even if he was prepared for the long haul his cadre may not be prepared for the wait.
He may have loved to pose himself as an alternative to both the DMK and the AIADMK if only the Congress was willing to play ball. That did not happen. And that certainly was what Jayalalithaa seemed to wait for. The AIADMK chief seems cautious though. She probably feels that arithmetic alone will not help win elections. The DMK-led alliance will have to ensure a swing of at least ten per cent votes in its favour; a huge task and more so in the context of the 2G Spectrum scam. The fact that all the party’s stalwarts decided against contesting from their own citadels in the Chennai city is suggestive.
That explains the reckless announcement of sops in the manifesto. After the DMK’s manifesto promised the voters of either a mixie or a wet-grinder, the AIADMK chief has promised both of these and also a fan if her party was elected. And in a sign of the changing times, the AIADMK has also promised a certain quantity of drinking water free. This may be described as competitive populism. Well. Not really so. It is simply a sign of recklessness. A pointer to the changing times from potable water to all as a basic human right to a specified quantity – 20 litres – free as a sop in exchange for votes. The DMK seemed to set the rules this way when it promised free colour TV sets in the last elections and implemented it too.