All eyes on battleground Tamil Nadu

Among the States that are going to polls this summer, Tamil Nadu is most fascinating as the future of leaders like M Karunanidhi (DMK), Jayalalithaa (AIADMK), Vijayakanth (DMDK) and Ramadoss (PMK) will be decided on May 19 when the counting takes place. Stakes are high for each one of them. Without any major alliance the votes will be split in a multi cornered contest.

JAYA has not developed any second rung leadership. She believes that there is no need for any other leader. The problem is that she is not in good health and even vigorous campaigning may be affected. She faces the danger of a political witch-hunt if  she loses. 

Tamil Nadu’s ruling AIADMK chief, Jayalalithaa, is desperate to come back to power and has been working for it more so after a Karnataka court acquitted her in the disproportionate assets case last year. The case has gone to Supreme Court on appeal but Jaya is optimistic because the split in the opposition votes may be beneficial to the ruling AIADMK, which has a vote share of about 44.3 per cent. It has won 37 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats. Even in 2011, the AIADMK won 151 seats with a vote share of 38.4 per cent. The AIADMK was not in alliance with any major political party during the 2014 general elections. In 2011 assembly polls, the party chose alliance with DMDK, CPI, CPM, MMK, PT and AIFB. AIADMK has not gone for any alliance in the ensuing polls.

Jaya has not developed any second rung leadership. She believes that there is no need for any other leader. The problem is that she is not in good health and even vigorous campaigning may be affected. She faces the danger of a political witch-hunt if she loses.

Stakes are even higher for the DMK chief, M. Karunanidhi, who had led the party for more than five decades and has been the chief minister five times. Karunanidhi will fade away quietly if the party loses this time. He is seeking votes as a last chance. He is the chief ministerial face for the party, which has aligned with the Congress this time. He will be 98 by the time they complete the term and therefore he may anoint his son Stalin after winning the State.  He also has to balance the family feud where his daughter Kanimozhi and elder son Azhagiri are also jockeying for his legacy. Hit by the 2 G scam, the party is yet to recover from the shock. That is why the DMK chief is wooing smaller parties and DMDK. He has already met 20 of these smaller parties, which believe that to defeat they should align with the DMK. In the 2011 assembly polls, DMK aligned with Congress, PMK, VCK, KMK. For 2014 general elections, DMK was in alliance with VCK, MMK, IUML and Puthiya Tamizhagam.

As for the DMDK chief, Vijayakanth, these polls are crucial to   prove his relevance. Has he been overrated? This will be proved by the DMDK performance this time, which was formed in 2005 by Tamil actor Vijayakanth. It formed an alliance with AIADMK coalition for 2011 assembly polls and was a part of the BJP alliance for 2014 general elections. Though the party is not considered a big threat to the two Dravidian majors, it is seen as an important ally due to its strongholds in certain areas of Tamil Nadu. It had a vote share of 7.8 per cent in 2011 and won 30 seats in the Assembly and no seat in Parliament. He has decided to go it alone, shunning the overtures from the DMK, BJP and other parties.

The PMK, a caste based party launched in 1989 won a single seat in Lok Sabha and three seats in Assembly in 2011. Former Union Minister Anbumani Ramadoss, son of the PMK chief S Ramadoss, has been declared its chief ministerial candidate. The ambitious party was part of the DMK alliance in 2011 and with the BJP in 2014 Lok Sabha polls. It has influence in pockets and a vote share of 4.4 per cent.

The Congress, which has lost its prominence since 1967, is yet to revive in the State and has been riding piggyback since then on the Dravidian parties. It has no local leader to match Jaya or Karunanidhi. It got no seat in 2014 and has five seats in Assembly. Its vote share has come down from 9.3 per cent in 2011 to 4.3 per cent in 2014.  It is difficult for the Congress to revive with no local leadership.

The other national party, BJP, has one seat in Lok Sabha and its vote share has gone up from 2.2 per cent in 2011 to 5.5 per cent in 2014. This too has no important local leader. But the BJP might gain strength with the support of the Kongunadu Makkal Desia Katchi. All these under assumption that no charismatic leader emerges and for the present no one is in sight.

The MDMK, headed by V Gopalaswamy known as Vaiko, has a 3.5 per cent vote share but no seat in either the Assembly or Parliament. He will disappear if he loses once again. He comes from the DMK stable and launched his party in 1994. He is now heading the third front called People’s Welfare Alliance consisting of left and other smaller parties.

It is clear both Jaya and Karunanidhi may not depart from the scene at the same time. With age not on his side, Jaya may hang around at least till the next elections if her health permits. If the DMK loses, it might probably split and join the league of other smaller parties like the PMK and DMDK.

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