Floating vote to decide outcome of poll in Tamil Nadu

(TN Ashok)

The Election scenario for Tamil Nadu Lok Sabha polls is virtually puzzling, notwithstanding the fact that it’s chaotic as some political observers say. For the first time in the history of electoral politics in Tamil Nadu, people go to the hustings not knowing clearly whom to vote for, because none of the giants of the state are around. Neither DMK patriarch Dr Kalaignar M Karunanidhi or AIADMKs puratchithalaivi Ms J Jayalalitha , the charismatic actress turned CM of the state are alive.

Dead and gone one after the other, leaving a rich legacy of achievements behind them , notwithstanding the charges of corruption and misuse of power that hounded them both during their political tenures. When they were around it was a clear question of electoral mathematics because both DMK and AIADMK had a clear vote bank defining their percentage of votes. In the 2014 elections, when everyone had written of Jayalalitha and predicted a DMK sweep under Karunanidhi’s sonStalin following the fiasco of handling the unprecedented flood situation and the assets disproportionate case against Jayalalitha, she still swept to power on the strength of her welfare schemes branded under “Amma”. Amma canteens, Amma pharmacy, Amma health care, Amma veggie stores etc , all sold at subsidized rates, giving a run for their money to wealthy business men.

She polled about 44% of the votes winning a comfortable majority, though DMK had increased its strength remarkably to about 74 seats with about 43% of the votes , though it failed to convert it into seats. It has a very poor showing in the previous assembly elections. So 2014 did bring DMK back into the reckoning. Stalin has since then relentlessly toured all the districts hopping to build on the success with an eye on the 2020 assembly polls and 2019 lok sabha polls.

When I talked to DMK stalwarts in my recent visit to Chennai, they were exuberant and said “Our dalapathi (stalin – general) will 39 of the 40 seats. But the AIADMK and BJP camp did not talk in terms of figures; they said “We will win most of the seats since the legacy of Jayalalitha of having done greater good to the people will stand us in good stead.” But the ground reality is AIADMK has earned the image of being an allegedly very corrupt political party with money being the main consideration for clearance of any project and it goes all the way up, critics say. OPS and EPS have joined hands to keep the party united but TTV Dinakaran, nephew of the jailed JJ associate Sasikala, claims to be the real heir to Jayalalitha’s legacy. Dinakaran is a very street smart and the same time a very sophisticated player in politics knowing the rules of the game, he may not have the muscle power, AI-DMK always lacked this against the DMK cadres, he is media savvy, and politically astute as demonstrated by his money power at the R K Nagar by elections against both DMK and AIADMK.

Fringe players such as Rajnikanth and Kamalahasan, absolutely lack the money power of political parties such as DMK or AIADMK, and hence Rajnikanth opted out of the race saying he will not contest the elections but Kamalahasan will.Rajni probably wants to see the outcome of the LS polls to go for a full-fledged kill in the 2020 assembly polls. But careless whispers say that his fans associations, his biggest strength, will actually by secretly helping the RSS cadres and working for the BJP candidates. He is often referred to as the Plan B of BJP.

So we have a leaderless AIADMK being mentored by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the one side and an angry opposition Congress propping up the DMK through the soul and heir apparent Stalin for the CM’s post. Though Stalin has done his homework well, he has still a long way to go come anywhere near his father’simage , leave alone step into his shoes.

That the people of Tamil Nadu like neither regional parties because of the high degree of corruption in either of them, they seem to be opting every time for the less corrupt that harasses the people less. For the people, while it maybe not much of a choice between the two regional parties DMK and AIADMK, both accuse of corruption, it is also a question of stability to the state and who is the leader who will provide it and which party or which political combine.

Stalin, despite his rising popularity. did not cut much ice either in the assembly or outside on the Bus Transport strike issue which was condemned even by the court as it affected the common man and resulted in hike in prices (petrol/Diesel is another reason) of fares. Stalin’s drama bombed.

AIADMK, with Modi’s support, is clearly having an upper hand to consolidate its votes as TTV Dinakaran has lost his momentum with internal family fight, court direction to appoint third Judge to adjudicate in 18 MLA disqualification, etc. Actors like Kamalahasan and Rajnikanth can at best cut into vote banks, not of AIADMK, with their politics but of the DMK. Whether they gain or lose is immaterial to them, but its advantage AIADMK.

With good monsoon and implementing the promises (framed by JJ) stated in manifesto,the AIADMK have better chance of taking more seats in 2019 without star campaigners. This they can achieve only by performing and not aligning with the BJP in the 2019 election (JJ’s strategy!!!), But they have panicked and aligned. The BJP needs AIADMK and not vice versa. Still they need to do a lot on the Crime control and police department have more power now after Toothukudi incident as protests have dwindled and people started thinking of industrial development.

While DMK has taken its time on seat sharing with its old allies, the AIADMK Chief Minister Edappadi Palanisamy, along with O.Panneerselvam and other party leaders pre-empted the DMK by sealing an alliance at Chennai’s famed crown Plaza hotel. PMK was allotted 7 seats in Lok Sabha and a Rajya Sabha seat. In turn, the PMK will offer full support to ADMK in the forthcoming by-polls for 21 assembly constituencies. Apart from the official announcement, a sum of Rs.500 crores has been promised to PMK. This was one of the major glitches, which had acted as a hurdle between PMK and DMK, political observer’s claim. The DMK, lost 3 consecutive elections is in a cash crunch, and is in no position to match the money power of ADMK and BJP combined.

DMK was keen to stitch an alliance with the PMK as it knew Dr Anbumani Ramadoss was a vocal critic of the Modi government, but lost the race, thus losing the vanniyar vote bank. The PMK, perceived to have the support of majority Vanniyars is known for switching alliances to both the Dravidian parties in every election. Both the late leaders Karunanidhi and Jayalalitha, though had taken the support of PMK in elections, had always ensured that their candidates lost the elections. In 2009 lok sabha polls, PMK contested in 7 seats and lost all the seats. However, the party polled around 5 percent in the 2016 assembly elections, political obserevers say.

The biggest challenge for the ADMK-BJP combine in the 2019 polls is that it has to overcome the so-called unpopularity and anti-incumbency of both the Modi and ADMK governments. To raise funds the combine has roped in education barons AC.Shanmugam and Pachamuthu with seats, with a barter that take care of BJP candidates expenses, it is alleged.

Dark horse to watch out for in this election is TTV.Dinakaran. He was very clear that there may not be any takers to enter into an alliance and he may be left alone. Sources in TTV’s party indicate that his target is to concentrate in a few constituencies where there is a chance of winning and ensure maximum damage to ADMK-BJP in the remaining constituencies. It’s a do or die battle for him as he has to prove that the ADMK cadres are with him. He also needs to get sizeable number of votes to ensure recognition by Election Commission.

The state is looking out for a leader and the one who shows leadership skills will emerge victorious in this election. Stalin has not done anything to win the confidence of the people and he has missed too many too many opportunities in the past one year. The swing vote will decide the winner.

In sum, the election scenario in Tamil Nadu is confusing, enigmatic, and puzzling due to lack of big leaders and wrong alliances and political parties losing the peoples trust. It can go any way. It will be a coalition and an uneasy one.

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