Poll analysis: DMK benefitted from anti-incumbency

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Tamil Nadu has witnessed the return of the DMK to the saddle of power after a hiatus of ten years. The party while bagging 133 seats (out of total 234) has ensured victory of Congress candidates on 18 seats. The two communist parties—CPI and the CPM—which won two seats each and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi with its four seats have taken the DMK-led front’s tally to 159. That DMK was set to capture power at the St. Fort George had become evident during the 2019 Lok Sabha election itself when the DMK alliance made a clean sweep of 38 of the 39 seats from the State. However, AIADMK which performed poorly then seems to have recovered a lot of lost ground as the party won 66 seats on its own and enabled its principal ally, the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) to bag five seats and the BJP another four.

It was the first Assembly elections during the last six decades, when two principal parties were without any iconic figures with AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa having died in 2016 and DMK founder Karunanidhi passing away two years later. The political ambience was thus devoid of the extreme animosity and rivalry that characterized the party supremos ever since the emergence of the Dravidian parties in the mid-1960s.
It is evident from the outcome of the Assembly elections in this southern state that the two Dravidian parties rule the roost in the State and allow little space for major national players to make any deeper forays among the electorate. The State seems to have consolidated the bipolar polity and all that other parties can hope is a tokenistic toehold by aligning with one of the two major parties.

Significantly, while the alliance with the Congress added substantial value to the DMK-led front, in case of AIADMK, the alliance with the BJP proved a liability for the party. The Congress won 18 of the 25 seats it was allotted within the DMK-led front Matrix. Conversely, the BJP could deliver only 4 of the 20 seats it was allotted by the major partner AIADMK. In terms of popular votes, the DMK polled 37.7% while the AIADMK was not much behind with 33.2% votes. The harvest for the Congress (i.e., 18 seats) was rather rich with only 4.26% of the popular votes. But the BJP came off poorly (i.e., only 4 seats) despite having a 2.61% share in the total. Overall, the DMK front received 45% popular votes.

The DMK seems to have benefitted from the anti-incumbency factor working against the AIADMK which has ruled the State for a complete decade.  Though AIADMK Government rolled out several welfare schemes such as loan waivers on the spur of elections and announced 10.5% quota for the Vanniyar community, these seem to have made little impact on the electorate. The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) which spearheaded the quota for reservation for the Vanniyars was part of the AIADMK-led front and could secure five seats. The DMK scored big wins in the northern districts dominated by the community.

M. K. Stalin, who is set to take over as the Chief Minister of Tamil nadu, is son of late Mr. M. Karunanidhi. He is a seven-time MLA. He was elected six times from Thousand Lights, a segment with substantial Muslims voters in central Chennai. But this time he chose to fight and won from Kolathur. His son Udayanidhi Stalin also won the election from Chepauk-Triplicane constituency in Chennai, again a Muslim dominated seat. The 43-year cinestar holds a degree from Loyola College, Chennai.

Noted filmstar Kamal Haasan who had floated his own political party Makkal Needhi Maiam and had his debut run at the hustings, was defeated by BJP National Women’s Wing leader Vanathi Srinivasan from Coimbatore South by a very narrow margin. His party failed to open an account. Film actress Khushboo Sundar, (born Nikhath Khan in a Muslim family) who was fielded by the BJP from Thousand Lights was defeated by DMK’s Dr. Ezhil Naganathan by a huge margin. She was placed third. Khushboo, a Tamil movie superstar had first joined the DMK in 2010 which she quit to join the Congress in 2014. She joined the BJP in 2020. Pursuit of electoral nominations made her quickly change political loyalties and parties.

T T V Dhinakaran, nephew of Sasikala, who floated his own party Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhgam (AMMK), after being expelled from the AIADMK, also failed to make it to the Assembly from Kovilpatti in southern part of the State. He had been expelled from AIADMK in 2017 after Jayalalithaa’s death and conviction and jailing of Sasikala. However, he fought and won the byelection from Radhakrishnan Nagar in Chennai in 2017.

The Indian Union Muslim League will have no representation in the new House in Tamil Nadu. The party which was allotted three seats by the DMK alliance, lost in all the three segments.

M A Siraj is Bengaluru based seasoned journalist who writes for a variety of newspapers including The Hindu, and news portals.