Kanyakumari, the only seat won by the BJP, had a different script

Barring a couple of elections, the formidable OBCs’ combination has been largely consistent in its support for the AIADMK in the southern hinterland, ever since the formation of the party in 1972.

It was in Dindigul that the fledgling ADMK made a triumphant entry into electoral politics with the victory of K. Maya Thevar in the 1973 by-election to the Lok Sabha. Incidentally, the symbol, ‘two leaves,’ assigned to Maya Thevar has remained with the party till today.

Though it may appear that the traditional vote bank of the party remained intact, local factors have also played a significant role in enhancing the victory margins in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

The AIADMK won nine of the 10 seats in south Tamil Nadu. The tally also proved the donation of a gold ‘kavacham’ to the bust of Muthuramalinga Thevar at his memorial in Pasumpon village in February by party leader Jayalalithaa to have been a politically correct decision.

The dominant OBCs in the region are Mukkulathors (comprising Maravar, Kallar and Agamudayars), Nadars and Yadavs. Dalits and minorities, who traditionally voted for a Congress alliance, have opted for the AIADMK this time on the conviction that Ms. Jayalalithaa was better positioned to safeguard their rights.

In Tenkasi (Reserved), for example, the voters did not opt for a Dalit leader, K. Krishnasamy, but chose a Dalit candidate. The OBCs in the constituency either voted in favour of AIADMK’s Vasanthi Murugesan or MDMK’s T. Sadan Thirumalaikumar after informal discussions among them.

The bitter experience of the past consolidated OBC votes against the PT leader. In neighbouring Tirunelveli, the electorate’s first choice was the ruling party candidate. However, a chunk of minority voters backed the DMK candidates in Tirunelveli and Tenkasi.

The AIADMK gained the votes of Dalit Christians, who have been fighting for their rights in a Vanniyar Christian-dominated church, in Dindigul. The church, unlike in the past, did not play an active role in supporting the DMK or Congress candidate and left the choice to individuals.

In Theni, the AIADMK was able to consolidate the Piramalai Kallar, Maravar, Muslim, Christian and Dalit votes, thanks to the ‘son-of-soil’ tag of its candidate, R. Parthipan, against J. M. Aaron Rashid of the Congress, an ‘outsider.’

Kanyakumari, the only seat won by the BJP, had a different script. Here there was polarisation of Hindu votes for the BJP, as the AIADMK and the DMK campaigned as the champions of minority rights.

The dominant Mukkulathors played a significant role in AIADMK victory in Ramanathapuram and Sivaganga.

In Ramanathapuram, it was expected that the Mukkulathor votes would get split after the Congress fielded Su.Thirunnavukkarasar, a popular leader from the community, especially when the AIADMK fielded A. Anwhar Raajha, a Muslim. But the OBCs fully backed Mr. Raajha, who became the first AIADMK candidate to secure more than four lakh votes (4,05,945).

In Sivaganga, the added advantage for P.R. Senthilnathan of the AIADMK was that he was a Kallar.

He set a record, polling 4,75,993, the highest ever by an AIADMK candidate in the constituency.

In both the constituencies, the AIADMK had substantially increased its tally, indicating that a section of Dalits has also voted for it, though Christians and Muslims voted for the DMK and the Congress.

In Madurai, the electorate — comprising Mukkulathors, Dalits, Yadavas, Sourashtras, Nadars and minorities — responded positively to the AIADMK campaign: “This is the first time the party is in the fray. As promised by our leader, the State will see peace, progress and prosperity,” was the refrain of the party's campaign in the Temple city.

In Virudhunagar, where MDMK leader Vaiko faced a surprise defeat, the victory of the AIADMK is largely attributed to the consolidation of Mukkulathor votes, especially in the Assembly segments of Tirumangalam and Tirupparankundram of Madurai district.

While the AIADMK was able to make inroads into the minority votes too, the Dalit votes got split among the DMK, the AIADMK and the Congress, benefitting the ruling party. But the Naicker votes largely benefitted Mr. Vaiko, even if it did not help him sail through.

(With inputs from L. Srikrishna, S. Sundar in Madurai; P. Sudhakar in Tirunelveli; D. J. Walter Scott in Ramanathapuram; K. Raju in Dindigul; P.S. Suresh Kumar in Nagercoil; and additional reporting by S. Annamalai in Madurai)