If the findings come true, it will be the first time since 1977 that the national parties would get a two-digit vote share in Tamil Nadu

It’s a thumbs-up for the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu, says an opinion poll, which also hints at both the Congress and BJP making some gains if a general election were to be held now.

The survey conducted by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) for CNN-IBN and The Hindu reveals that the AIADMK government led by Jayalalithaa, is faring better than the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre or the previous Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) regime on different counts.

Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) of the 786 respondents are satisfied with her government as against the satisfaction level of 39 per cent for the UPA regime. Similarly, comparing the AIADMK government with the DMK regime (2006-2011), the approval rating for the former is 43 per cent against 26 per cent for the latter. The survey also endorses the conventional thumb rule that in the State rural areas, the AIADMK is stronger than the DMK.

But the AIADMK’s gain is limited to a three percentage point rise in terms of vote share – from 23 in the 2009 Lok Sabha election to 26 per cent now.

However, it is arch-rival DMK that should be more worried about the findings. Its vote base has gone down sharply – from 25 per cent in 2009 to 16. This alone is not a matter of concern to the party, which seems to be suffering from low credibility on a vital issue like the Sri Lankan Tamils question.

Gains for Congress, BJP too

The principal national parties — the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — have a reason to smile, as an opinion poll says the strength of these parties has increased in Tamil Nadu.

Going by the poll tracker survey by the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) for CNN-IBN and The Hindu, the BJP’s vote share is 10 per cent, and that of the Congress 18 per cent in the State.

Barring the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), only these two parties stand to gain in Tamil Nadu in terms of support base. For the BJP, which had no allies in 2009 and garnered just two per cent of the votes polled, it is a significant jump, one that does not look realistic given the presence of the party on the ground.

Similarly, the projected vote share of the Congress does not look realistic, as the party’s 2009 performance — 15 per cent contesting 15 seats — was based on an alliance with the DMK, and its individual strength has not been tested for many years.

DMDK

The Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), seeking to present itself as an alternative to the two main regional parties, now has a seven per cent vote share, as against 10 per cent in 2009.

Two factors are to be kept in mind while analysing the estimated vote share of the parties. As acknowledged by the CSDS, the sample size in Tamil Nadu (786) is proportionately less compared to the State’s electorate. As much as 18 per cent of the respondents fall under the category of “undecided voters.”

UPA’s track record

The opinion poll, which does not throw any light on possible factors for the enhanced strength of the Congress in Tamil Nadu, otherwise provides a glimpse of the apparent popular feeling against the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the Centre. Be it price rise, the Sri Lankan Tamil problem, the campaign against the Kudankulam power project, corruption or the comparative performance of the Union and State governments, the message against it is loud and clear.

A look at the electoral history in the last 15 years would indicate the net strength of the Congress or its variant while contesting the Lok Sabha polls without a major ally. In 1998, the Congress, which had lost much of its support base to the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), a breakaway party, got 4.8 per cent on its own. A year later, the TMC could bag 7.15 per cent.

If the latest survey findings on the national parties’ strength come true in the next poll, it will be for the first time since 1977 that two national parties would get a two-digit vote share in a State where regional parties have been predominant.

In March 1977, the Congress and the Congress (Organisation)/Janata, as partners of the AIADMK and the DMK respectively, polled 22.3 per cent and 17.7 per cent votes. Yet, they had, more or less, inherited the “old Congress vote bank” left behind by K. Kamaraj, who headed the Congress (O) till his death in October 1975. This was evident in the Assembly elections held a few months later when the Congress and the Janata, contesting independent of the DMK and the AIADMK, got 34.2 per cent of the votes polled. The Janata’s demise and the weakening of the Congress over the years largely benefited the AIADMK. The DMK snapped its ties with the Congress hardly a few months ago, and many survey respondents deem it a political drama. The AIADMK has said it will contest the polls alone and aim for a clean sweep. The question now is whether the two regional parties would take a cue from the survey findings and reach out to the Congress or the BJP for an alliance.