May 12, 2014

TAMIL NADU & LOK SABHA 2014


CAN JAYA SINK THE DMK'S SUN?


From Bengal, we move to another state which is ruled by a lady politician - the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In 2011 state elections, the AIADMK led alliance swept the state, winning a staggering 201 of the 234 seats. While Amma's outfit walked away with 150 seats, her ally the DMDK (Link) finished as the second largest party as it ending with an impressive tally of 29 seats. The DMK was decimated. In fact when Vijaykanth decided against joining the Jaya government, he became the Leader of Opposition, relegating Karuna's party to the third spot. Three years down the line, things have changed to some extent. The AIADMK supremo is nurturing Prime Ministerial ambitions, hopeful that a tally of say about 30 odd seats will make the 'natural' leader of a Third Front. The DMK is no more a constituent of the UPA, having broken off from the INC led coalition following differences over the Lankan Tamil issue. The BJP on the other hand has stitched together a 'Half Rainbow' alliance in the state (Link) with several smaller Dravidian parties. The Congress though is left in the lurch; without any strong allies on its side, it seems to be headed towards a rout.

ISSUES

(1) Performance test of the Jaya government: It has been three years since the AIADMK registered a landslide victory in the state elections, relegating the DMK to the third spot. Having completed more than half of her tenure, the Tamil Nadu CM's performance will be under the scanner. The 'Amma Eateries' serving highly subsidized food has been a big hit across the state, run by women's self help groups. Other welfare measures include the 'Amma Marundagam ' (Medical Stores) and free laptops to students studying in standard XII and Polytechnic colleges. The law and order situation has improved as compared to that under the previous Karunanidhi regime. On the ground, the AIADMK is said to be the strongest political party, ahead of the others, especially with the DMK in disarray and the Congress fighting the polls alone.

(2) Anti-incumbency against the UPA: With corruption becoming a major issue across the nation, the Congress is clearly on the back foot. One of the biggest scams in the second tenure of the Congress led coalition government has been the 2G scam, perhaps running into thousands of crores. This is important because the prime accused in this fiasco has been the former Telecom Minister A Raja of the DMK. In fact, one of the beneficiary of this allegedly has been Karuna's daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi. Thus while the DMK did pull out of the UPA late last year, the stigma of 'corruption' has not been washed away, at least not yet. Even the performance of the last DMK regime was much below par. This is certainly going to further help the AIADMK and the NDA win votes.

(3) Lankan Tamil Issue: In the last days of the 2009 Lankan civil war as the island nation's army decimated the LTTE, it is alleged that severe atrocities were committed by men in uniform against the Tamils. Videos from various organizations around the world have given 'questionable' evidence of armymen killing the minorities in cold blood including Prabhakaran's young son and LTTE loyalist Isapriya. With the US planning to move a resolution against the Sri Lankan government in the UN, the DMK pulled out of the UPA alleging that the Congress was not ready to accept its suggestions. The whole issue has snowballed into a major poll issue in the state with both the Dravidian parties accusing the Centre of not doing anything to protect the Tamils in Jaffna. Of course, we also need to take into account that we cannot displease our southern neighbor which is also a strategic partner.

Another issue, perhaps linked to this is the drama over the release of the people convicted in the assassination of former PM Rajiv Gandhi. With the Supreme Court commuting the death sentence of three of the convicts to life, the Jaya government tried to secure brownie points by announcing that it would release all the seven people associated with the case. This was met with stiff opposition from the Congress who called this a betrayal. The SC later intervened and has stayed the move.

CONTENDERS

(1) All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK): After that spectacular victory in the last state polls, AIADMK supremo is buoyed and has started voicing her national ambitions as the calls for a Third Front are growing louder. This is reflected in the party manifesto too. However, the wily politician that she is, she 'forced' the Left in breaking ties with her outfit, aware that each seat in her kitty would make her more powerful nationally. The numerous welfare schemes that her government has launched, the anti-incumbency against the UPA and the dissidence within the DMK are working to Amma's advantage. In fact, the AIADMK may give tough competition to the likes of the TMC and the Left to emerge as the third largest player in the Parliament. The AIADMK's candidates include T G Venkatesh Babu (Chennai North), Dr J Jayavardhan (Chennai South), S R Vijayakumar (Chennai Central), P Senguttuvan (Vellore), V Panneerselvam (Salem), P Kumar (Trichy), R Gopalakrishnan (Madurai) and D John Thangam (Kannyakumari).

(2) Democratic Progressive Alliance (DPA): Like so many constituents of the UPA, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) too is struggling, to say the least. Apart from the fact that it finished third in the state assembly, even behind Vijayakanth's DMDK, the power struggle within the Dravidian outfit's first family has led many to believe that the DMK would struggle to even cross the two digit mark. The stigma of the multi-crore 2G scam seem to have stuck to the party even after it left the UPA. With Karunanidhi expelling southern strong man Alagiri, the polls are a big test of the leadership for the 'crown prince' Stalin. Aware that the party's tally is set go southwards, the party has tied up with several smaller players like the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), the Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (MMK), the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and the Puthiya Tamizhagam (PT) to consolidate anti-AIADMK votes. The regional player's candidates include Stalin loyalist R Girirajan (Chennai North), T K S Elangovan (Chennai South), A K S Vijayan (Nagapattinam), V Velusamy (Madurai) and former Union Ministers - S. Gandhi Selvan (Namakkal), T R Baalu (Thanjavur) and 2G tainted A Raja (Nilgiris).

(3) Congress: The grand old party is in a fix in the southern most state. Without any strong Dravidian ally on its side, the INC seems to be headed towards doomsday. The fact that several of its key leaders including Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Shipping Minister G K Vasan have refused to contest in 2014 is an indication of the big rout staring in the face of the party. Adding to its woes is the Union government's refusal to back a 'strong' US led resolution against Sri Lanka in the United Nations implicating it of genocide against the country's Tamil population during the last days of the Civil War in 2009. Some of the party's candidates here include Finance Minister's son Karti Chidamabaram (Sivaganga) and veteran leader Mani Shankar Aiyar (Mayiladuturai).

(4) National Democratic Alliance (NDA): Aware that the saffron outfit does not have any significance presence in Tamil country, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cobbled together the 'Half Rainbow' alliance by bringing together several smaller Dravidian parties to give it a fighting chance, especially after the talks with Jaya failed to materialize. Leading the NDA here is film star Vijayakant of the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) which emerged as the second largest party in the assembly and polled 10 percent of the votes in the 2009 Lok Sabha. Besides, Ramadoss of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and firebrand leader Vaiko of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) too have pledged their support to Modi. Other smaller players in this coalition are the Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) which has some influence in the Kongu region and the Indiya Jananayaka Katchi (IJK). The BJP's PM nominee also met superstar Rajnikanth during his visit to Chennai.

PAST PERFORMANCE

In 1996, G K Moopanar split from the Congress over its decision to ally with the AIADMK and formed the Tamil Maanila Congres (Moopanar) - TMC(M). He joined hands with the DMK and the CPI(M) and the alliance - the United Front won all the 39 seats in the state. Two years down the line though, the results were dramatically different. The AIADMK, the PMK, the MDMK and Subramaniam Swamy's Janata Party joined the BJP-led NDA and won 30 seats. The DMK and the TMC(M) finished with a tally of 9. Elections were scheduled a year later as Jaya pulled the plug on the Vajpayee government during the crucial trust vote. The saffron camp now allied with the DMK, Ramados and Vaiko. The new look NDA finished as the largest coalition with 25 seats while Jaya and the Congress took 12 and 2 seats each. In 2004, Jaya was with the BJP whereas the DMK was now in the UPA along with the PMK and MDMK. This was one of the blunders that cost Vajpayee a second consecutive term. The results were a white wash in favor of the UPA. In the last General polls, the UPA continued to dominate with 27 seats whereas the AIADMK combine bagged 12 seats.

Political Party20092004199919981996
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazgaham (AIADMK)9-1018-
Dravida Munnetra Kazgaham (DMK)181612517
Congress66319
Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazgaham (MDMK)1443-
Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK)-554-
Others342622


MY PREDICTIONS

The AIADMK is all set to cross the 20 seat mark and may even end up as the third largest party in the Parliament. Its rally will be dented to some extent by the DMK which is making a come back of sorts. The NDA will pick up a few seats whereas the Congress and others may, at max win up to 2 seats.

Political PartyExpected Seats
1All India Dravida Munnetra Kazgaham (AIADMK)21-25
2Dravida Munnetra Kazgaham (DMK+)9-13
3National Democratic Alliance (NDA)3-6
4Others (Congress/Left)0-2

WATCH OUT

(1) Jaya - Potential PM candidate: Should the AIADMK win over 30 seats and there is a chance for a Federal Front to come to power, the party chief will be the strongest contender to become the PM of the nation. Even in the run up to the polls, Amma has on several occasions has given indications that she nurses national ambitions. The shrewd politician that she is, she even walked out of an alliance with the Left parties to maximize her individual tally. Even in case the Third Front may not come to power, Jaya with 30 odd MPs will be in a solid position for some hard bargaining with either the NDA or the UPA.

(2) The split in the DMK and the future of Alagiri: How much of an impact will the suspension of Alagiri have on the prospects of the DMK, especially in the southern districts where Karuna's estranged son has some kind of a clout. The war of succession that began as early as 1996 when Vaiko was shown the door seem to have been settled finally. With his last rival being shunted out and the Marans cut to size, the path is clear for the former Deputy CM Stalin to lead the party in the post Karuna era. Meanwhile, his elder sibling's next move will be very interesting. Though joining the AIADMK can be ruled out, he may join some other party like the BJP or Vaiko's MDMK or even float a new party. One more possibility is that in case the DMK is wiped out, Karuna may even mend fences with Alagiri to strengthen the party.

(3) Performances of the smaller party: In 2009 Lok Sabha polls, the DMDK polled 10 percent of the total votes though it did not pick any seats. In the next state legislative assembly elections, the party ended up as the second largest party. The point I wish to make is that we need to see how the performance of these smaller parties would be and if the coalition stitched together by the BJP would last post elections. I mean, the DMDK, the MDMK and the PMK and the BJP alliance may end up giving a tough fight to the two major Dravidian parties a tough fight. A wild idea, I know but still a possibility.

Other posts in this series:
(1) Karnataka & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(2) Rajasthan & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(3) Maharashtra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(4) Goa & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(5) Kerala & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(6) Assam & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(7) Tripura & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(8) Haryana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(9) Chhattisgarh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(10) Jammu Kashmir & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(11) Madhya Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(12) Telangana & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(13) Bihar & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(14) Jharkhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(15) Sikkim & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(16) Arunachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(17) Nagaland & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(18) Manipur & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(19) Meghalaya & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(20) Mizoram & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(21) Delhi & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(22) Gujarat & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(23) Himachal Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(24) Uttarakhand & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(25) Bengal & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(26) Odisha & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(27) Punjab & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(28) Andhra & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)
(29) Uttar Pradesh & Lok Sabha 2014 (Link)