This election presents a very unique situation in Tamil Nadu where there is a five- cornered contest. In the recent history of Tamil Nadu there was never a five cornered contest in a Lok Sabha poll. There was one though in 1996 – with DMK and Tamil Manila Congress, ADMK-Congress, MDMK – Left, BJP and Vazhapadi Ramamurthy ‘s Tamilaga Rajiv Congress competing with each other. Then the DMK-TMC combine came up trumps, trouncing AIADMK comprehensively.
The state will now witness a five way battle between the BJP alliance, DMK-VCK combine, AIADMK, Left parties and the Congress, without counting the new entrant AAP. The general perception is that always the AIADMK’s vote bank is slightly stronger than the DMK’s, standing at say 28-32 per cent against DMK’s 22 – 28 %. So hoping in a multi-cornered contest she would come out on top, Jayalalitha decided to go it alone in the polls.
Till last week, Jayalalitha was on a high note of euphoria, with an apparent wave in her favour following her decision to release Rajiv case convicts. But then the scenario saw a dramatic change following the finalisation of BJP alliance in Tamil Nadu. The BJP alliance which was struggling with a lot of hiccups initially, did manage to stitch together a visibly formidable alliance. The coming together of the BJP, MDMK, PMK, IJK & KDMK has made the alliance look strong. Though individually the vote-fetching capacity of the constituents is relatively limited, observers believe there could be a ‘bandwagon effect’ – thanks to the Modi magic.
The formation is sure to take away a sizeable chunk of votes from the vote bank of the AIADMK. Excluding the committed ADMK supporters, the party’s vote bank is thought to essentially consist of caste Hindus after the ascendance of Jayalalitha. This share of votes is likely to swing towards the BJP combine due to the Modi factor.
Apart from the Modi effect and the caste-following of the BJP’s allies, Jayalalitha faces additional hurdle in the form of ‘power outages’. The power shortage which Jayalalitha was able to manage for the past few months is rearing its head yet again, particularly in the delta region of Tamil Nadu. Sources claim, TANGEDCO, the electricity distribution wing of TN is managed by bureaucrats who are reportedly to close to Karunanidhi and they are carefully playing the sabotage game. Gnanadesikan IAS, who was the Home Secretary during the DMK government is heading the TANGEDCO and he could ensure that there are more power outages at the peak of summer. Jayalalitha’s rhetoric blaming the DMK for power outages won’t cut much ice with the voters, as she has been in the saddle for more than three years now.
In a self goal, Jayalalitha has antagonised owners of all roadside eateries with her much publicized ‘Amma Unavagam’. A road side eatery owner said that ‘Why not Jayalalitha compete with Saravana Bhavan or Vasantha Bhavan. What sin have we committed that our everyday livelihood is robbed by Jayalalitha. Are we her rivals ?’. These marginal sections of people have perennially voted for ADMK. Further, the imposition of minimum charge for autorickshaws in Chennai City has antagonised the entire auto-driver community. 80% of the auto drivers in Chennai City drive the auto for rent and the newly imposed rate by the Chennai City Traffic Police and the continuous penalisation has incensed not only the drivers but also their families.
Apart from these drawbacks, Jayalalitha has to cross more self-inflicted hurdles. Freebies like free goats, fan, mixer grinder and grinder have not reached many sections in TN.
In spite of the ‘bandwagon effect’ the BJP combine has to tackle the ground level differences between its alliance partners. The PMK has all along been advocating prohibition and vociferously opposing alcoholic habits. But, its alliance partner DMDK and its leader Vijayakanth, who generally addresses crowd in an inebriated state is a thorn in the flesh for many of the Vanniyar Sangam cadres. Sources say, the Vanniyar Sangam cadres headed by its leader Kaduvetti Guru would vote against the dmdk. But it is anybody’s guess which party, the DMK or ADMK, that would benefit from such cross-voting.
Further, the BJP alliance has no ground-level coordination. All its alliance partners lack cadre strength to even manage polling booths. A BJP leader on condition of anonymity said that ‘all its alliance partners lack even personnel for ‘booth management’ and that would be their ‘Achilles Heel’. And among the BJP partners, MDMK and IJK have no cadres at all.
However, young voters, i n the 18-30 age group and numbering, say 1.19 crore, could plump for the BJP alliance in a big way.
For the DMK its biggest problem would be its candidates. Sources in DMK indicate that except DMK heavyweights like TR Balu and A.Raja, many of the DMK candidates are unfamiliar and are alien to the cadres. But in spite of it, DMK has an ace up its sleeve. It seems to pin its hopes on the splitting of anti-ADMK votes. But then withh only a small portion of anti -ADMK votes coming its way as per assessments this week, the party might not be able to win more than seven seasts.
The congress facing a heavy anti-incumbency factor faces additional hurdles in Tamil Nadu. After more than two decades, for the first time, congress is facing lok sabha polls without any allies. Like the left it is seen a virtual non-player in the forthcoming elections. According to the present trend, many of the congress candidates would lose deposits in the state.
The only known candidates of the new sensation Aam Party are SP.Udayakumar, Pudhparayan and Maipa, office bearers of the anti-Koodankulam agitation committee. Though they may make a dent, it is unlikely that any of them will win.
As of now, according to the assessment this week made by intelligence agencies, the following would be the results, if the polls are held today for TN & Pondicherry.
BJP combine 15
However, election is still a full month ahead, and even a day is too long in politics.