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Last Updated : Apr 15, 2019 10:29 PM IST | Source: Moneycontrol.com

Opinion | DMK-Congress combine is decisively ahead in Tamil Nadu

Will the NDA’s alliance arithmetic overcome anti-incumbency in Tamil Nadu? May 23rd will provide the answers.

Moneycontrol Contributor @moneycontrolcom

Sumanth Raman

As Tamil Nadu gets ready to vote on April 18, the expectation among all political fronts is high. The DMK-Congress-Communist plus alliance is enthused by opinion polls, pointing to a comfortable victory for the alliance, with some predicting almost a clean sweep in the state.

The NDA is being led by the AIADMK and includes the BJP, the PMK of S. Ramadoss and the DMDK of actor Vijayakanth, besides some smaller parties. This alliance has faced headwinds in the campaign with double anti-incumbency (AIADMK government has been in power in the state for eight years) being felt at several places on the ground. There is also an element of anti-Modi sentiment, as the prime minister did not visit the state after Cyclone Gaja, but has made at least five trips in the last two months ostensibly because of elections.

Yet, AIADMK leaders including Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy has run a spirited campaign, hitting the streets with gusto, talking about various welfare schemes and invoking the name of late Jayalalithaa in an attempt to recreate her magic among the electorate.

For the NDA, their hope lies in how they perform in three key areas of the state.

The western belt, also known as the Kongu belt, is where the AIADMK has traditionally been the strongest and the BJP also has influence in several pockets. The NDA will be hoping to won seats like Salem (chief minister’s home constituency falls within this seat), Namakkal, Coimbatore, Tiruppur and Pollachi. A poor performance in this belt will mean significant anti-incumbency against the AIADMK-BJP combine, and this could well result in a sweep for the DMK-Congress alliance.

The second area, where the NDA hopes to put up a fight, is in the Vanniar belt where the PMK has a strong base. The PMK has been criticized for joining the NDA after releasing a book on the alleged corruption of the state government a few months ago and meeting the Governor to demand an inquiry into the corruption charges. PMK gets about 5-6 percent of votes across the state, but it is concentrated in around 8-10 Lok Sabha constituencies. If the party can pull its weight, it can help determine the outcome in favour of the alliance in at least 2-3 seats. Its leader and former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss is contesting from the Dharmapuri seat which he won last time.

The third area, where the NDA hopes to score well is in southern Tamil Nadu, is where the BJP is contesting four of its five seats. The party has fielded heavyweights, Union minister and sitting MP Pon Radhakrishnan in Kanyakumari, state President Tamizhisai Soundararajan (against the DMK's Kanimozhi) in Tuticorin and National Secretary H.Raja against Karti Chidambaram in Sivaganga. The fourth seat, Ramanathapuram, is where the BJP has fielded a relatively new entrant to the party – former AIADMK Minister Nainar Nagendran. This is the area where TTV Dhinakaran’s AMMK is expected to cut heavily into the AIADMK-BJP alliance vote, thus helping the DMK combine.

The other major area in the state, the Cauvery delta region, is widely considered a washout for the NDA with the DMK alliance expected to capitalise on the criticism on the handling of Cyclone Gaja and the general farm discontent across the region.

Chennai City is also considered a lost cause for the NDA,  with two out of the city’s three seats being given to alliance partners like the DMDK and the PMK, who have a very little base in the city. Only in Chennai South, where the AIADMK and the DMK are contesting, can be considered to be an actual fight.

A reasonably good performance will boost the morale of both the AIADMK and the BJP in Tamil Nadu. Three months ago, they were both down and out as far as these elections were concerned. Yet, in a couple of months, they have forged an alliance that, at least on paper, can put up a fight.

If the alliance manages to win about 10 seats, it should be satisfied. A few weeks ago, the possibility of winning even a single seat seemed remote. For the AIADMK, there is the additional issue of winning at least 7-8 seats out of the 22 assembly seats for which by-elections are being held. A big defeat can put the future of the state government in doubt. So the focus of the party will be more on the by-elections than on the Lok Sabha poll. For now, though, the DMK-Congress combine is in pole position to win a significant number of seats from Tamil Nadu.

Will the NDA’s alliance arithmetic overcome anti-incumbency in Tamil Nadu? May 23rd will provide the answers.

(Sumanth Raman is a Chennai-based television anchor and political analyst. Views are personal)

 
First Published on Apr 15, 2019 05:40 pm
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