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Last Updated : Feb 22, 2019 09:55 AM IST | Source:

Opinion | With the grand alliance in Tamil Nadu AIADMK is back in poll race

Electorally the numbers still appear to be tilted in favour of the DMK-Congress combine but the margin between the two sides may now hardly be 4-5%, and that is clearly within striking range on the campaign trail.

Moneycontrol Contributor @moneycontrolcom
Tamil Nadu CM E Palaniswamy
Tamil Nadu CM E Palaniswamy

Sumanth Raman

‘It ain't over till it’s over’ — this famous sporting phrase echoes loudly in the electoral scene in Tamil Nadu today. A few weeks ago the elections in the state seemed a mere formality. The Dravida Munnetra Kahzagam (DMK)-Congress combine was set to sweep the state with a dozen opinion polls indicating a landslide in their favour. Even charitable polls gave the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kahzagam (AIADMK) a maximum of 4-5 seats out of the 39 in the state. It all looked smooth sailing for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), so smooth in fact that the partners may have got just a wee bit complacent.

That possible overconfidence was the opportunity that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the AIADMK needed. Within a week (though talks had been going for the last several weeks) the AIADMK had stitched together a formidable alliance to take on the DMK-Congress combine.

The roping in of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) of S Ramadoss and his son Anbumani Ramadoss was a huge boost to the AIADMK. Not just did they get the PMK with its 5-6% concentrated vote share into their fold for the Lok Sabha elections, they also got the party's backing for the 21 assembly seats where by-elections are to be held. The PMK will be contesting from seven Lok Sabha seats and has been promised a Rajya Sabha seat.

The result of these by-elections could determine the future of the Edappadi Palaniswamy (EPS) government and with six seats out of the 21 being in the heart of PMK territory where the party could help decide the winner, the move by EPS and party coordinator and deputy chief minister O Panneerselvam (OPS) to have the PMK on their side is seen as a smart one. The PMK negotiated with both sides and the DMK missed a good opportunity to rope in the party of the large Vanniyar community.

Next was the announcement of the tie up with the BJP. This was always on the cards. Five seats to the BJP and the deal was done.

With the likes of S Krishnasamy’s Puthia Tamizhagam (a prominent Dalit party in southern Tamil Nadu), AC Shanmugham’s Puthiya Needhi Katchi (PNK) and TR Pachamuthu’s Indhiya Jananayaga Katchi (IJK) also being roped into the alliance, the AIADMK which was looking isolated a few weeks ago suddenly seemed to have found fresh legs to run the course. Talks are still on to persuade actor Vijayakanth's Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK) to join the alliance. If talks fructify GK Vasan's Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC) is also likely to be part of the alliance. In effect, the large grouping of parties behind the AIADMK sent out a clear signal to the voters that this election was no longer a foregone conclusion.

In the meanwhile the DMK-Congress combine decided on 10 seats as the share of the Congress (nine in Tamil Nadu and one in Puducherry) but were still in negotiations on the seats for the others in the alliance such as the CPI, the CPI(M), the IUML, Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) and Thirumavalavan’s Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK).

Eventually, it appears that the two major players, the AIADMK and the DMK, may contest between 21-25 seats each with the side that ropes in Vijayakanth's DMDK contesting towards the lower end of this range.

The creation of two large formations means that parties such as TTV Dhinakaran's Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) and Kamal Hassan's Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) are being isolated. They could tie up with each other and a few smaller parties that are still not part of the two major alliances but the chances of such a combination making a state-wide impact are quite remote. If the DMDK does not agree to join either side they too could join such a front. It is also possible that Hassan may actually want to contest alone to test his strength as he has announced that his party would contest all 40 seats (including Puducherry).

With some help from the BJP, EPS has emerged as the winner of this round. He has successfully negotiated a rainbow alliance with a swathe of parties and from a position of no hope the AIADMK seems to now have enough in the tank to put up a fight.

Electorally the numbers still appear to be tilted in favour of the DMK-Congress combine but the margin between the two sides may now hardly be 4-5%, and that is clearly within striking range on the campaign trail.

DMK President MK Stalin now has a fight on his hands to demonstrate his leadership qualities and deliver a significant victory for his party — something he has been unable to do earlier. This will also be the DMK’s first election after the demise of party patriarch and Stalin’s father M Karunanidhi. For the Congress limiting the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance’s (NDA’s) gains in the state will be important.

The Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu just got very interesting.

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

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First Published on Feb 22, 2019 09:55 am
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