Who is winning Tamil Nadu?

Post Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, the overall political equation is yet to mature and new parties will play a spoiler

By Author Braj Mohan Chaturvedi   |   Published: 20th Mar 2021   12:36 am

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) are the two key parties in the fray in the Tamil Nadu election. They are challenged by the combined might of small parties like the NTK, PMK, MNM, AMMK, DMDK, SDPI and the AIMIM. All the small regional parties will play the role of challengers and constitute one of the most important blocks in the upcoming election. As a block, they will challenge the established political parties — DMK, AIADMK.

The 2016 Assembly elections was a close contest between the AIADMK and the DMK. The AIADMK alliance won the election securing 40.88% vote share and the DMK came second with 39.8%. All other parties secured less than 10% vote share. The overall scenario may not change this time too.

Image Management

As per popular belief, the AIADMK vote share will drop by a few percentage points, but the overall benefit will not go to the DMK. The biggest shift will happen to the new regional parties. Moreover, the combined might of all other regional parties will damage the chance of the DMK returning to power. In all probability, these regional parties will do more damage to the DMK than the AIADMK.

However, the first reaction that comes from any political analyst on the Tamil Nadu election is — the DMK is winning. The reason: while the AIADMK is working hard to win the electoral battle by invoking Amma’s legacy, it has failed to keep the party united as Jayalalithaa did for years. They also talk of anti-incumbency of a decade.

They may be right, but I strongly believe that the party has managed to keep its voters united. I don’t see any anti-incumbency as the Chief Minister in power has delivered good governance. He managed the Covid-19 situation effectively and also the most talked about problems of farmers, the largest vote bank of the State. Yes, the charisma of Jayalalithaa is missing. The followers of AIADMK are still not out of the shadow of Jayalalithaa.

The DMK stands tall when it comes to leadership image management. The power of Jayalalithaa is missing in the AIADMK, which is not the case with the DMK. Stalin has managed the post-Karunanidhi era very well. He also managed to balance the family politics in his favour. He, for sure, has emerged as a mature political leader. But, this act of leadership image management may not immensely help the DMK in gaining vote share.

Fragile Political Landscape

Post Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa, the overall political equation is yet to mature in Tamil Nadu. We are witnessing the emergence of the Amma Makkal Munnettra Kazhagam (AMMK) of TTV Dhinakaran and Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) of Kamal Haasan. These two at best will play the role of a spoiler or vote ‘katua’. They will attract all the disgruntled voters from both the established players. This swing of the disgruntled voters will define the fate of this election.

When you see from the outside, the AIADMK under EPS and OPS is still a disciplined political party managed by non-celebrity leaders. With Sasikala opting out of the political race, TTV Dhinakaran floating his separate party and the rise of Kamal Haasan as a politician, the road ahead for EPS and OPS is not going to be easy. The DMK, on the other hand, seems to be enjoying a smooth ride and the support of the loyal vote bank.

However, on one hand, the DMK has the stigma of a family party — a family-run political party that is hugely fragmented. This image is not going down well with the young voters and even DMK’s loyal vote bank. The young leaders of the party don’t see a great future and are drifting toward the MNM and the BJP. On the other hand, the EPS and OPS combo in their limited capacity has managed the show very well.

The voters of the State have seen that EPS who was never known to anyone became the Chief Minister and ruled the State efficiently. This has helped establish a positive image of the party among the younger generation. This has also helped the AIADMK loyal vote bank, and young leaders stick with the party. Most importantly, after a long gap, the voters of Tamil Nadu are seeing a CM who speaks in normal language, is without much ego and is accessible to common citizens. This image of accessible CM will help EPS in this election.

winning Tamil Nadu

New Equation

In the current political landscape, four prominent blocks are fighting the battle. AIADMK+ is fighting to retain power, DMK+ is fighting for survival, MNM+ is fighting to establish their identity, AMMK+ is fighting to find their identity. This is going to be an interesting election. The old loyalists of the DMK and the AIADMK are not going to change sides.

The leaders of the AIADMK still have the blessings of Jayalalithaa. It is backed by the political strategies of Sasikala (one may not agree). It has the backing of potent Thevar and Gounder communities. Most importantly, after ages, the voters of Tamil Nadu have experienced good governance under a difficult situation by a non-celebrity Chief Minister. They experienced that a common politician can deliver good governance. They also understand that the AIADMK has the blessings of the Centre.

The current combo of EPS and OPS seems to have managed to win the confidence of voters. There is no significant anti-incumbency in the State. There are a few disgruntled voters who will shift side to the AMMK and the MNM.

This situation creates a very tough situation for all the political parties in the election fray. I believe, the DMK+ will manage to win 100+ seats; AIADMK+ in between 110 and 120 and the MNM+ and AMMK+ close to 20 seats.

(The author is a New Media expert based in Bengaluru)


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