Jayalalithaa romps home in Tamil Nadu
On the eve of Assembly Elections, in my Cover Story titled, “Tamil Nadu: No End to Dravidian Politics” in the issue dated April 20, 2016, I had stated, or rather predicted, as follows:“Jayalalitha, despite giving pathetic governance, stands tall with the strength of just two factors in this election. One, the opposition is split wide into four teams and their vote shares are also limited with no chance for a growth. Two, even if her party loses a huge share of 5 per cent to 6 per cent from its present status, it will stand number one with 38 per cent share. So, her victory is already written on the wall”.
Most of the exit polls, except one agency, predicted that DMK-INC alliance would win handsomely. But the results proved them wrong and AIADMK obtained a few seats more than the simple majority with a final tally of 134 seats. The DMK alliance won 98 seats (DMK 89, INC 8 and IUML 1), a strong opposition indeed.
My premise was based on two factors; one being there was no anti-incumbency and the other being there was no specific major issue for the parties to fight on. In such a scenario and with a widely split opposition, the incumbent is destined to win and that is what has happened.
Nevertheless, this election induced lot of interest due to three factors; firstly, there was no “wave”; secondly there were no “big” alliances formed by the two major parties DMK and AIADMK; thirdly, it turned out to be a six cornered contest. In the end, the two Dravidian majors (AIADMK and DMK+) shared the seats and the remaining drew a blank. The third front formed by the conglomeration of Vaiko’s MDMK, Communists (CPI & CPIM), Thirumavalavan’s VCK and GK Vasan’s TMC, led by Vijayakanth’s DMDK was badly hit, most of them relegated to third and fourth places. The other three parties namely BJP, Dr.Ramadas’s PMK and Separatist Seeman’s Nam Tamizhar Katchi (NTK) also lost badly.
Although the people of Tamil Nadu didn’t perceive any “issues” during the run up to the elections, the parties themselves attempted to create an issue out of the “Prohibition” policy. Almost all political parties, barring a few like BJP, filled their manifestoes with “freebies”. More than everything, this election witnessed the maximum flow of money in bribing the voters. Before analyzing all these factors, a look at the party wise performance will be in order.
AIADMK polled 1,76,17,060 votes with a share of 40.8 per cent (increased from 38.4 per cent in 2011) and won 134 seats.
DMK polled 1,36,70,511 votes with a share of 31.6 per cent (increased from 22.4 per cent) and won 89 seats. INC polled 27,74,075 votes with a share of 6.4 per cent (decreased from 9.3 per cent) and won 8 seats. IUML polled 3,13,808 votes with a share of 0.7 per cent and won 1 seat.
People Welfare Alliance (DMDK+MDMK+VCK+CPI+CPIM+TMC) led by its Chief Ministerial candidate Vijayakanth drew a blank. DMDK polled 10,34,384 votes with a share of 2.4 per cent (decreased from 7.9 per cent). MDMK polled 3,73,713 votes with a share of 0.9 per cent. (Party didn’t contest in 2011). CPI polled 3,40,290 votes with a share of 0.8 per cent. CPIM polled 3,07,303 votes with a share of 0.7 per cent. VCK polled 3,31,849 votes with a share of 0.8 per cent and TMC polled 2,30,711 votes with a share of 0.5 per cent.
PMK which entered the electoral arena alone with former Union Minister Anbumani Ramadas as Chief Ministerial candidate, polled 23,00,775 votes with a share of 5.3 per cent (0.1 per cent increase from 5.2 per cent). BJP which forged an alliance with nonentities like IJK, polled 12,28,692 votes with a share of 2.8 per cent (0.6 per cent increase from 2.2 per cent). Actor cum Separatist Seeman’s NTK polled 4,58,104 votes with a share of 1 per cent.
Among the lot, only the two major parties AIADMK and DMK could increase their vote share. While AIADMK increased its share by 2 per cent, DMK increased by 9 per cent. All other parties either lost share or maintained status quo.
AIADMK which has never lost its share below 31 per cent since 2001, went up to 44.3 per cent in the 2014 parliament elections, and now obtained 40.8 per cent. It lost a share of almost 4 per cent from 2014 mainly due to the surging of DMK from 22.4 per cent (23.4 per cent in 2014) to 31.6 per cent. Whatever said and done, credit for this growth in vote share must be given to Karunanidhi’s son Stalin who crisscrossed the state on a sustained campaign. Winning 89 seats thereby depriving a two-thirds majority for AIADMK is no mean achievement. However, credit should also be given to Jayalalitha for keeping the opposition divided and also on tenterhooks until the last moment
keeping her cards close to her chest. She waited for all the parties to release their manifestoes, made her own calculations and released her manifesto at the last moment with a flurry of freebies.
Although DMK and a few other Dravidian parties announced considerable freebies, they could not make changes in their manifestoes matching AIADMK’s, as Jayalalitha released hers at the last moment. Finally Jayalalitha had the last laugh.
Initially DMK tried its level best to rope in Vijayakanth’s DMDK and Thirumavalavan’s VCK. Despite Stalin’s reluctance, Karunanidhi extended the rope as much as possible, but Vjayakanth showed no interest. On the other hand, INC was trying to patch up again with the DMK, as it had a very bad experience of going alone in the parliament elections and drawing a blank losing its share too heavily. Here also Stalin was reluctant. However, the Church brought Sonia’s Congress and Karunanidhi’s DMK together again. The Tamil Nadu Bishops Council openly declared its support for DMK-Congress alliance and gave a call to the Christian community to vote for the alliance. The Church’s timely interference turned out to be a saving grace for the Congress party resulting in a win of eight seats.
The Muslims were also divided in their support. While the Indian Union Muslim League remained loyal to DMK, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi (political wing of Tamilnadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam) shifted from AIADMK camp to DMK camp. The other strong fundamentalist outfit Towheed Jamath tacitly, though not openly, supported AIADMK.
As far as the People Welfare Alliance was concerned, Vijayakanth’s DMDK was the only major party, others being minor players. Among the lot, Vaiko’s MDMK, Communists, VCK and GK Vasan’s TMC have been reduced to nonentities polling less than 1 per cent. However, Vijayakanth’s party DMDK was the worst affected losing 5.5 per cent which resulted in the party losing its “State Party” status, meaning it has lost its permanent symbol “Drum”. He launched his party in 2006 as an alternative to DMK and AIADMK and straightaway contested the elections. His party secured a vote share of almost 10 per cent with Vijayakanth alone winning. His party contested 2009 Lok Saba elections alone winning no seats. However, he struck an alliance with Jayalalitha’s AIADMK in the 2011 assembly elections winning 29 seats with a share of 7.9 per cent. In the 2014 parliament elections he joined the BJP led NDA and ended up with a share of 5.1 per cent. And now, his party has gone down further to just 2.4 per cent losing the “State Party” status itself. After this election all these parties in the PWA have lost their bargaining power too. In future, they cannot demand more seats and must get satisfied with what is given to them.
Anbumani Ramadas, the Chief Ministerial candidate of PMK conducted a very decent and dignified campaign traveling across the state projecting his party as a party for change and progress. He tried his level best to erase the “casteist” image attached to the party since its inception. But in the end, the party could neither shed its image nor obtain the cast votes. Party drew a blank with even Anbumani losing in his trusted constituency. The only solace was that it could maintain its vote share of 5.2 per cent.
The BJP, which is doing so well nationally, could not move even an inch at the state level. Lacking Charismatic leadership and long term strategies, the party has been miserable in each and every outing. While in 2011 it was left alone, in the 2014 parliament elections it formed an alliance with DMDK, PMK, MDMK and a few other nonentities like IJK and PNK. Despite a huge wave across the nation in support of Modi, the NDA in Tamil Nadu failed miserably to capitalize on it. However, BJP could achieve a vote share of 5.4 per cent ranking third next only to AIADMK (44 per cent) and DMK (23 per cent). Although the NDA, as a whole obtained 16.4 per cent vote share, the alliance didn’t last long and BJP failed to keep it in tact. As a result, the party was made to run behind these parties again to form an alliance for the assembly elections. It was pathetic to see the BJP leaders waiting at the doorsteps of Vijayakanth quite often. Only after Vijayakanth closed his doors at the last moment, the party started to think of other strategies. The party’s weakness in Rajya Saba has had its toll in the state, as the state leaders were forced to remain silent against Jayalalitha. The last minute noise against the state government didn’t cut much ice with the electorate. All these things resulted in the party losing very badly with its vote share dropping by 3 per cent.
Endless Freebies and
Empty Coffers Now, the Tamil Nadu assembly is literally a house divided between the two major parties AIADMK and DMK. The presence of 8 Congressmen and one Muslim league man is irrelevant. How did this happen? In a six cornered contest, with so much of choices, why did the people choose only AIADMK and DMK? Why are they again and again voting to these two parties? Knowing pretty well that these two major parties are really corrupt, why are the people electing those corrupt politicians again and again?
Bribing the Voters
Nowhere else in the country one can see political parties literally bribing people for votes. This ugly culture was started by AIADMK in the Sathankulam by-election in February 2003, in which, Sarees and utensils apart from cash were distributed to people. The party won the election. In the Thirumangalam by-election in January 2009, the DMK led by Karunanidhi’s son Azhagiri, improvised the bribery strategy to a huge extent. It distributed the money (reportedly Rs.5000 per voter) putting it inside a cover along with the voting slip instructing the voter to cast the vote for DMK candidate, by sending it through the morning newspaper to every household. This earned the name “Thirumangalam Formula” and the same found a place even in WikiLeaks cable sent by the US Embassy naming Azhagiri.
Since then there is no looking back for both the Dravidian majors. This “strategy” of bribing voters became a regular phenomenon in each and every election and the Election Commission lacking in required manpower and necessary equipments and infrastructure, remained a mute spectator. This bribing of voters reached alarming levels in this election as evidenced by the fact that the EC seized more than Rs.100 crore of unaccounted money from various places, which is way beyond Rs.25 crore seized during 2014 parliament elections and Rs.35 crore seized during 2011 assembly elections.
Crores of money has been seized from offices and houses of both DMK and AIADMK functionaries. This election also witnessed accusations and counter accusation by the parties. Vaiko, the man behind the formation of People Welfare Alliance is facing a defamation case filed by AIADMK, for stating that the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had stashed at least Rs. 2,000 crore inside her sprawling bungalow at Siruthavur in Kancheepuram district.
To top it all, the EC also seized three truck loads of hot cash (Rs.750 crore) being transported near Thiruppur, supposedly transferred by State Bank of India from Coimbatore to Vishakapattinam. The trucks remained in Thiruppur Collectorate for more than five days before the SBI submitted documents and claimed it. Though the State Bank of India and Reserve Bank of India issued clarification statements, many questions like, who is the actual owner of the money, why the cash was not being transported as per the rules, why was it transported without proper security, why was it packed in wooden and cardboard boxes, why it took five days for the State Bank of India to submit the documents, why was the Election Commission not notified about the transferring of such a huge amount especially when the Model Code of Conduct was in place for State Elections, etc., remain unanswered.
The bribe money was allegedly
distributed by both DMK and AIADMK during night hours. When the EC tightened its vigil, the state witnessed unofficial power cuts, especially when the campaigning came to a close, to facilitate easy and speedy distribution. Media reported heavy distribution of cash from the end of campaign on 14 May stretching to the night of 15 May before the polling day, that is 16 May.
Any wonder only DMK and AIADMK candidates have won and the rest are defeated?
Despite all the reforms it is bringing in the electoral process, the EC is certainly losing its respect for not checking and controlling the unfair freebies and ugly bribes. The corrupt politicians have corrupted the people and the “Democracy” has turned out to be “Corruption of the People, by the People, for the People” in the Dravidian land.
By B.R. Haran