Published: 20th April 2019
DMK will get majority, TTV Dhinakaran did more help than harm: Post-poll prediction
One can safely argue that this election is characterized by uncertainty, which skews the traditional understanding of how TN electorate would behave
The second phase of general elections that concluded on the April 18saw 38 out of 39 parliamentary constituencies in Tamil Nadu except for Vellore, where the election was cancelled.The conduct of the elections was largely peaceful with a few reported incidents of EVM failures and skirmishes between party workers on the ground. In spite of the unpopularity of the current All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government and its alliance, the prevalent narrative does not accord a clean sweep to the opposition alliance led by the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK). One can safely argue that this election is characterized by uncertainty, which skews the traditional understanding of how TN electorate would behave, given the changed circumstances i.e., the absence of titular figures of both the dominant parties and emergence of new players. We argue that for the DMK to sweep the elections, the appropriation of the AIADMK’s vote share by the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) should be significantly more than the probable loss of DMK’s share to Makkal Needhi Maiam (MNM) and Naam Tamilar Katchi (NTK).
At the outset, the poll turnout at 9 PM on the day of polling was 70.9%, which is marginally lesser than the 73.67% in 2014. In other words, the number of votes available to be shared has marginally dropped, which in turn indicate closer fights especially with large alliances coupled with smaller parties that seek to split votes. We have put together a table that gives an indicative picture of the vote share of the DMK, AIADMK, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), Indian National Congress (INC), and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)calculated by adding up the vote shares of parties in the 2016 assembly elections. Though the BJP and PMK did not go with the Dravidian parties, in terms of vote share the performance is almost similarin comparison to the near past in case of PMK andconsiderable in case of theBJP. On the other hand,the other parties in the present alliances fought the elections separately and at times against one another in 2016 and hence have been kept out. The reason for extrapolation from 2016 assembly elections rather than 2014 general elections is owing to the extent of changes that the state has witnessed since 2014 thereby giving us a relatively closer picture of vote shares. Further, the changes witnessed in the last 3 years are also stark and to the disadvantage of the AIADMK alliance.
DMK Alliance - Votes in per cent
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) - 31.64
Indian National Congress (INC) - 6.42
Total - 38.06
AIADMK Alliance - Votes in per cent
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) - 40.77
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) - 2.84
Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) - 5.32
Total - 48.93
Table: Indicative Vote Share of the DMK and AIADMK Alliance
Advantage AIADMK: The tale of Makkal Needhi Maiam and Naam Tamilar Katchi
The DMK saw a smooth transfer of mantle from M. Karunanidhi to MK Stalin and the subsequent formation of an alliance without much struggle be it in the coming together of parties or distribution of seats. However, the party gets accused mainly of corruption and dynastic politics. The validity of allegations is a separate debate altogether. However, while this does not affect its core vote base, it does seem to be affecting the prospects of the party in securing the votes of a considerable chunk of first-time voters. It is in this context that the parties like MNM, a centrist party led by film star Kamal Haasan and NTK, a party with a variant of Tamil Nationalist ideology, which problematizes the role of linguistic minorities in electoral politics of the state led by film director Seeman enter the fray. While the former is poised to cut votes in the urban areas, the latter is seen to cut votes in both rural and urban areas. Though the combined vote share of both the parties is expected to be around 5%, this chunk is regarded to be cut out from the DMK’s share as the DMK, MNM and NTK are seen as alternatives to the current ruling dispensation. In other words, while the DMK might not lose in its strongholds, the party might lose out in close contests.
Advantage DMK: The Emergence of TTV Dhinakaran
Unlike the DMK, after the party’s supremo passed away, the AIADMK traversed a rough terrain, thanks to the series of party intrigues which resulted in the emergence of E. Palaniswamy and O. Pannerselvam as Chief Minister and Deputy Chief Minister and the subsequent formation of AMMK by TTV Dinakaran, which for all said purposes calls itself the 'True AIADMK', vaguely reminding us of the tussle after the party founder MG Ramachandran’s death in 1987.
While TTV Dinakaran maintains a composed public image that is clear of casteist shade, his support largely stems from Mukkulathors / Thevars (a loosely organized combination of three castes i.e Kallar, Maravar and Agamudaiyar) dominant in Central and South Tamil Nadu with a population of 8% in the state. Further, he enjoys the support of a section of minorities and Dalits.The ground level operations of AMMK were conspicuous in the ability of the party in publicizing the symbol allocated to them, which was 'Gift Box' inless than a month's time across Tamil Nadu.
One can safely argue that he is poised to appropriate most of the AIADMK’s base in south Tamil Nadu as observed by senior AIADMK leaders. This leaves the AIADMK with support from northern Tamil Nadu that it hopes to secure through the PMK and that party’s base in the western regions. The twist in the plot, however, is that the AMMK is not a non-player in these regions and going by sources on the ground the party is set to garner some votes in these regions as well. In other words, AMMK holds the potential to cut deep into the vote share of the AIADMK, which puts DMK at an advantageous position.In this process, the AMMK might win a seat or two too. Furthermore, there is a small percentage of DMK voters who voted for the AMMK owing to the inactivity of the former. This, however, seems to get neutralized by another section of AIADMK voters who voted for DMK as against AMMK.
In the way of concluding, one can argue that while the DMK alliance seems to pocket over 25 seats, the prospects of the party increasing its tally beyond that or to go ahead and sweep the elections, depends on the difference between the impact of AMMK on the AIADMK alliance, and the impact of MNM and NTK on the DMK alliance.
The estimation of the population of Thevars is drawn from The Times of India, Chennai edition paper, 13 March 2019, p. 10.
The table has been put together using data from the Election Commission of India
Vignesh is a doctoral researcher at the King’s India Institute, King’s College London. He tweets @krvtweets
Jeyannathann is a biochemical engineer with an interest in politics. He tweets @Jeyanbiomimic