The drama of Tamil Nadu elections can always be compared to a fast paced masala movie on similar lines to a Kollywood scripted block buster. All the right elements are always present in right quantities and 2016 is no different from its predecessors. The make or break of alliances, the never ending list of Celebrity campaigners, popular filmy punch lines and finally a beehive of party cadres all aide to the success of this script.
As opposed to the usual bipolar contest between DMK and AIADMK, this election provides a different perspective to the average voter. Tamil Nadu is lined up for a multi party contest with nearly five strong players who are still in the process of consolidating their own alliances.
Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), in Tamil Nadu, has always been identified as a political party in synchronous with the caste group of “Vanniyars“. Starting from the word go, PMK were quick to declare their Chief Minister candidate as “Anbumani Ramadoss” way back in November 2015. One would wonder if Senior Ramadoss’s ingenuity behind this thought came from following the footsteps of Mulayam Singh Yadav, who graciously gave way for his son Akhilesh Yadav to lead the party in 2012 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections ?
PMK’s track record in handling alliances has been very oscillatory right from its inception. Be it Assembly elections or Lok Sabha elections, their pendulum keeps pointing to AIADMK or DMK at the state level or NDA or UPA in the National level. Probably for the first time in Tamil Nadu election history, PMK have decided to contest on their own under the leadership of Anbumani. Their posters for highlighting “Change and Progress with Anbumani” might have been an emulation of Obama’s campaign. But sadly neither is the party able to break the shackles of the “Vanniyar Caste” tag nor can they convince their voters of any last minute switching ordeals.
The most sought after alliance part in Tamil Nadu has been Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) lead by erstwhile actor Vijayakanth. Vijayakanth aka Captain by his cadres, jumped into the Tamil Nadu political fray around 2006, stunning all political parties with his 8.4 % debut vote share. He vote share gradually increased to 10.1 % in 2009 Lok Sabha elections and he has been in demand ever since.
His alliance with National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in 2014 did see a considerable drop in his vote percentage to 5.1 % but that did not deteriorate his value in an alliance. Bharathiya Janata Party (BJP), Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and People’s Welfare Alliance (PWA) have all been eager to strike a deal with Vijayakanth for the upcoming assembly elections.
Congress which is aware of the ground reality in Tamil Nadu, had devised a master plan. The grand old party in order to win back its lost pride in the political arena sent DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi to woo Vijayakanth back to its ally fold. This would have ensured the revival a of Congress dominated UPA and simultaneously they would have succeeded in deflecting Vijayakanth from going back to BJP.
Vijayakanth’s wife Premalatha, the second in charge of the party, was vociferously opposing both the major Dravidian parties (DMK & AIADMK) for allegedly pushing Tamil Nadu into a perpetual state of corrupt practices. But DMK Chief M Karunanidhi was quite the relentless character. In-spite of being criticized by various DMDK leaders on several occasions, he was seen planning unprecedentedly to bring DMDK on board.
His renowned dialogue “The fruit is fast ripening and I expect it to fall into my bowl of milk“, metaphorically comparing Vijayakanth to be the fruit. This created quite the uproar in social media, subsequently enabling political enthusiasts to create a number of MEME on this. If one looks back in history we can remember how C N Annadurai constantly referred actor M G Ramachandran as “The Fruit of my heart”, but sadly this time for Karunanidhi, this fruit royally chose to ignore him.
The official reason for DMK’s split from UPA in 2013 was underscored as “betrayal of Sri Lankan Tamils“. But coincidentally one cannot ignore the arrest of former Union Minister A Raja and Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi in the alleged 2G spectrum case. DMK’s desperation for getting back to power in the state and Congress’s agony of losing allies to BJP seems to have brought them together to renew their lost political dream.
BJP has been fixated with the idea of reviving the NDA glory in the 2016 assembly elections of Tamil Nadu. Union Minister Prakash Javadekar and National General-Secretary Muralidar Rao paid frequent visits to DMDK leader Vijayaknth. At a certain point of time BJP tried to do a Jammu and Kashmir in the state, they offered the CM post to Vijayakanth on a Common Minimum Program (CMP) agenda which was courteously declined by him.
Unfortunately BJP should have been lesser dependent on its unreliable alliances and more dependent on growing its party cadres in the unknown Dravidian land. Projecting state leadership, proactively engaging in door to door campaign and openly voicing its displeasure against the ruling AIADMK should have been the right approach. If same steps were taken in the state of Kerala by BJP leader H Raja, not sure why it wasn’t achievable by BJP state President Tamilisai Soundararajan.
Recent videos of Piyush Goyal accusing the inaccessibility of CM J Jayalalitha and Prakash Javadekar questioning the CM on distribution of central funds inefficiently can be simply described as a little too late. Sadly as a journalist had put it, “BJP really seems to have missed the bus for the 2016 race“. Maybe in 2019 with a better strategy at hand and a change in hands of state leadership, they can fare better.
The PWA headed by Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) leader and LTTE sympathizer Vaiko is probably the happiest alliance in town. They have struck gold with a rainbow alliance of parties which includes
1) Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) headed by Thol Thirumavalavam
2) CPI headed by Mutharasan
3) CPM headed by Ramakrishnan
4) And finally the big fish of DMDK Vijayakanth.
In a bid to express unrelenting overjoy, Vaiko stated the party should be called as “Captain’s PWA alliance” which was found to be in very bitter taste with its communists allies.
But a factor which neither Vijaykanth, nor the PWA members have considered is how impenetrable is this alliance. Almost every party in this rainbow has been highlighted with either DMK’s yellow or AIADMK’s green at some point of time during their political battles. Switching loyalties is typically a common trait which is found with most alliance members of this DMDK-PWA alliance.
Finally amidst all these unrelenting alliance battles, one party, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is being a silent spectator to all the proceedings. Tamil Nadu CM and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalitha is planning to watch and play her cards carefully. Ever since the days of CM M G Ramachandran, Tamil Nadu has never witnessed the ruling party coming to power in consecutive terms.
Over the past decade Tamil Nadu has spent nearly Rs 11,561 crores on distributing freebies alone. Many critics have termed that socialistic freebie measures taken by consecutive Dravidian governments and bribing the voters with money have played a major role in enabling parties to win elections. But this has not been the case, successive government’s freebie announcements of Kalaignar TV/Kalaignar Health Insurance and Amma Laptops/ Amma Fan/Amma Grinder have only enabled the opposition party to win.
Both AIADMK and DMK seem to have realized this glitch in their respective campaign trails. None of the parties have actually gone ahead to announce to any freebie to be launched as a part of 2016 poll promise. To counter this issue, rumors in the corridors of power suggest, that AIADMK is keen on splitting the vote bank of all opposition parties.
The Chanakya moment arrived for AIADMK supremo, when she enabled a strategy which has refrained DMDK Chief Vijayakanth from joining the DMK or BJP. The young voters of Tamil Nadu, who were fed up with both Dravidian parties, seem to have preferred to either go with DMDK or BJP. By allowing these two parties to join hands, AIADMK was sure to lose an opportunity to come to power again. Also by separating DMDK from DMK, the chances of DMK coming back to power due of anti incumbency are slim.
Now the equation looks like this
1) AIADMK likely to fight the polls alone in 234 constituencies
2) DMK – Congress alliance to fight with few fringe parties, seat share is still in discussion
3) PWA – DMDK alliance to fight polls, still more parties might join
4) PMK likely to fight the polls alone in 234 constituencies
5) BJP with the help of social groups going to fight alone with few small time parties
6) Apart from this few smaller fringe parties like “Nan Tamizhar” parties also planning to fight from 234 constituencies
With such a high probability of vote split, it looks more likely that it is advantage for the ruling party AIADMK.
But one mustn’t always underestimate the average Tamil Nadu voter. Be it the 1996 wealth case of J Jayalalitha, 2011 Family rule of M Karunanidhi, he/she has voted wisely to bring about a change for the Tamil society. One might never knew, the Tamil Nadu vote might spring a surprise on us by enabling a “Third Front” which we all have been yearning for the past 50 years.