The ruling DMK and its allies have swept the local body polls held in nine districts of Tamil Nadu trouncing their opponents. Out of the 138 of total 140 wards, DMK on its own bagged 128. Congress won 7 with MDMK and VCK bagging one each. With respect of 1381 Panchayat wards, DMK won 930 and it’s allies Congress won 32, VCK and MDMK 15 each and the left bagged four combined together.
On the other side, ADMK had to satisfy itself with just 200 of the 1381 seats. It’s ally BJP bagged 8. PMK which stood alone won 44. AMMK won 5 and DMDK won in one. Kamalhassan’s Makkal Neethi Maiyam and Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi both of which promised alternative to Dravidian politics came a cropper. The element which surprised many political pundits is the impact made by Vijay Makkal Iyakkam.
The fan association of actor Vijay – Vijay Makkal Iyakkam (VMI) – which contested in 169 seats in this local body won 115 of the 169 with a strike rate of 68%. This victory of Vijay’s fans is quite significant owing to the fact that the winners of VMI used the images and flags of Vijay without either Vijay endorsing their candidature officially nor campaigning for them.
What the victory means for DMK ?
Credit should certainly be given to MK Stalin for his impressive performance in the past six months. Most of the schemes and announcements by his government are welcomed by people across the state. However, the thumping victory doesn’t mean DMK would repeat the same performance in the forthcoming polls. One important factor for this humongous victory of DMK is the lack of unity among opposition.
The onus of providing a more responsible government has increased manifold on Stalin’s shoulders. A thumping win trouncing all opponents is certainly a good news for any political party but given DMK’s track record, this spells danger for the party. During the DMK’S 2006 rule, there were many allegations of land grab against DMK councilors. DMK is a party known for its high handedness. The mess created by it’s Ministers, MLAs & councilors was so much that, the TN populace refused to give a chance even in 2016 in spite of the anti-incumbency faced by the ADMK. Details of a sample of land grab case against DMK politicians can be read here. Link 1, Link 2, Link 3, Link 4
Within 6 months in power, two DMK MPs are already facing criminal cases with one arrested for murder.
Even during 2021 polls, the difference of vote share between DMK and ADMK was less than 5%. The DMK on its own got 37.70 and the ADMK on its own got 33.29. (Allies vote share is not taken into account). The misrule of the ADMK under Edappadi Palanisamy after Jayalaitha’s demise and the leadership crisis faced by the ADMK failed to dent its vote share. The performance of ADMK is significant given the fact that dual leadership was no match for the charismatic leadership of either Jayalalitha or its founder MG Ramachandran.
So far DMK’s allies, though not happy with the seat allocation have stuck with DMK in spite of its tough posturing in seat sharing. Things may change, if there is a change in ADMK’s leadership and severing of ties with BJP.
Stalin need to tread a very careful path in the future keeping an eye on the upcoming local body polls for Corporations and also the 2024 lok sabha polls.
The ADMK, in it’s golden jubilee year is facing an existential crisis. Even before the 2021 assembly polls, it faced leadership crisis. In October 2020, huge confusion prevailed in ADMK regarding the CM candidate and Edappadi Palanisamy, with the help of BJP high command and with his money prowess, managed to silence his bête noire O.Panneerselvam ahead of elections. The 33.29 percentage of votes that the ADMK bagged is significant.
But, the ADMK could not repeat the performance in the local body polls. True, ADMK’s crucial ally in northern Tamil Nadu – the PMK – ditched it at the last moment. But the ADMK could not even harvest the euphoria among the strong Vanniyar community in northern Tamil Nadu for providing 10.5% inner reservation among the MBC category. This scheme did not translate into votes even in the 2021 assembly polls. MK Stalin deftly outmaneuvered both the ADMK and PMK by issuing orders for implementation of the scheme after it assumed power and claiming credit.
The reason for colossal failure of the ADMK in the local body polls can be attributed to the non-performance of its leaders as the principal opposition party in Tamil Nadu. In the last six months, the ADMK failed to pin the DMK government on several issues including corruption. ADMK leaders are rattled by the three corruption cases that were registered against former ADMK ministers SP Velumani, MR Vijayabaskar and KC Veeramani. Many of the former Ministers have reportedly extended an olive branch to DMK not to slap corruption cases against them. This fact is strengthened by the fact that apart from the trio mentioned above, Stalin’s government is procrastinating about the corruption cases against other ADMK leaders.
Further, the confusion due to the dual leadership is still haunting the ADMK with both the Coordinator – OPS and Joint Coordinator – EPS issuing statements separately. The chorus for singular leadership is loud now. This result in the local body polls is an eye opener for the ADMK. If it fails to pull up its socks, they may perish with the BJP making strong inroads in to the state.
Apart from the dismal failure of the ADMK in the local polls, it is also facing another threat from inside. VK Sasikala, close friend of late Jayalalitha has upped the ante by announcing to storm Jaya’s memorial on 16th of this month. Due to the leadership crisis and the abysmal performance of the party, cadres may sway with Sasikala.
ADMK cadres long for a strong leader like Jayalalitha who thundered in ADMK’s general council in 2014 that “In the political field there is no trace of enemies. They have disappeared into oblivion”. Sasikala’s active plunge into politics may muddle the waters further.
The BJP, which had been flexing its muscles for more than two years assumed to have found their mojo in the form new party president Annamalai. Annamalai a former IPS officer has been making huge noises right from the day he assumed charge.
He has been highly critical of the DMK and never leaves an opportunity to take potshots at the DMK. But BJP’s religious politics have failed to make a traction with the people of Tamil Nadu. Though they managed to win lok sabha seats in TN with the help of both DMK and ADMK from the nighties, the party is not able to make a significant presence in the state.
The party has failed to take lessons from the rout it faced in the 2019 lok sabha elections. It’s sustained religious campaign has failed to impress the people of Tamil Nadu. The party’s justification of fuel price rise, advocacy for NEET, etc. has not been relished here. With Modi’s popularity going down by the day, the party has a long way to go before emerging as an alternate for either of the Dravidian parties.
Seeman’s Naam Tamilar Katchi
In the eleven years since the party was founded by former film Director Seeman, the party has never shied away from any elections including by elections. The party which claims itself to be an alternate for Dravidian parties got its highest vote share in the 2021 polls with 6.58%.
Seeman’s high rhetoric and abusive language continue to rumble the social media with memes flying left and right. Seeman could not convert his support for hate politics to votes. As predicted by several political analysts, he continues to remain in the fringe as a rabble rouser.
The 2009 Lok Sabha polls proved that the Eelam issue doesn’t have any impact in the TN elections. The elections which were held at the height of the Lankan war, went in favour of the DMK despite being accused of siding with the congress which helped the Sinhalese against the LTTE. DMK and its allies bagged 27 of the 39 seats.
Seeman campaigned in this election to vote for ADMK to form a separate Eelam. Other political parties quickly understood the quicksand that is Eelam cause and dropped it like a hot cake.
But Seeman continues his Eelam politics even in local body polls with his abusive rhetoric becoming a but of jokes in social media. If the party fails to change tack and continue with its hate politics, it is looking at a bleak future.
A senior journalist who keenly observes TN politics has to say this about the results.
“There is no doubt that DMK’s massive victory in the local body elections is because of the work that the DMK has managed to do in the last 5 months. Particularly, the way the Government handled the COVID19 crisis and fulfilling its catchy poll promises.
Having said that, it’s sad to see the AIADMK which failed to put up a tough fight. AIADMK’s defeat in the local body polls indicates that the people have lost faith in the party that is currently riddled with leadership issues.
It’s time for the AIADMK to put its house in order and rethink about its alliances. The DMK which was out of power for 10 years returned to power with a comfortable majority and the massive sweep in the just concluded local body elections is good and bad new for the party.
Apart from other issues like the 2G scam, corruption etc the reason why DMK lost in 2011 and was unable to make a comeback is because of its local body representatives. During DMK’s previous regime land grabbing and harassment by councillors and local body representatives became a norm.
So much so, that the general public was fed up with the demands made by local body representatives and the way public was treated by the ruling party.
MK Stalin has a daunting task of keep the local body representatives in control and if he fails to keep them in check. This could bound trouble for the DMK in long run.”
Sasikanth Senthil, former IAS officer and Tamil Nadu Congress Committee Coordinator spoke about the results of local body polls. He said, “The ruling alliance’s insistence on providing responsive and responsible governance is the reason for the success. Another major indicator in the results are the outright rejection of extreme populist right wing politics perpetrated by communal BJP and ethno nationalistic Naam Tamilar. Tamilnadu seems to be on the right track in maintaining its development record for some time.”
To sum up, the political arena in Tamil Nadu remains open in the absence of tall leaders.
It remains to be seen, who will fill the huge leadership vacuum that prevails in Tamil Nadu as of now.