The Tamil Nadu verdict is clearly a vote of endorsement for the AIADMK, placing it as the largest State-based party in the Lok Sabha
The Lok Sabha elections in Tamil Nadu confirmed two important trends: the voters in the State were not necessarily influenced by what are often termed as ‘national’ issues, and the tradition of one of the two Dravidian parties or alliances sweeping the elections was emphatically endorsed. The party in power in the State, the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), swept the elections, winning all but two of the seats. The leading Opposition, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) could not open its account; nor could the Congress. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led alliance won two seats. The voting pattern indicates a massive vote share difference of 14 percentage points between the AIADMK and the DMK. Both the parties took a strategic decision not to ally with any of the national parties. This allowed the electoral battle in the State to be fought largely on local issues.
A few significant factors that explain the electoral choice in Tamil Nadu need to be highlighted. Lokniti-CSDS conducted a series of tracker polls from September 2013 which culminated in a pre-poll survey before voting. All of them clearly indicated that the AIADMK was in the lead with the DMK in the second spot. Nearly half the respondents in the survey mentioned that they had decided on who to vote for even before the election campaign began. The three most important issues mentioned by the voters in this election were: price rise (15 per cent), corruption and scams (12 per cent), and lack of economic growth (12 per cent). When asked which party was most capable of solving these problems, more than half the respondents who took a stand on the issue mentioned the AIADMK. When asked about the scheme started in the name of ‘Amma’ (Amma canteens and Amma vegetable markets), three-fourths of the respondents declared that these programmes were helpful for the poor. It is also important to record that close to four of every 10 respondents had not heard of the BJP-led alliance in the State. Among those who had heard of the alliance, there was a more or less equal division on whether the alliance was good or bad for the State.
Among those favoured by the voters in the State for the prime ministerial position, Jayalalithaa emerged in the first position, closely followed by Narendra Modi. On a range of leadership indicators, the respondents in Tamil Nadu favoured Ms Jayalalithaa over Mr. Karunanidhi, with Mr. Modi occupying the third place on most parameters. The anger of the people against the UPA government (of which the DMK was a part for a significant number of years) and the visible infighting within the ‘first family’ in the DMK led to the party’s resounding defeat. The Congress which went alone in the State was relegated to the fourth position.
The AIADMK sweep was clearly across regions. The difference in the votes polled by the AIADMK and DMK alliance candidates was over 3 lakh in two constituencies, over 2 lakh in 17 seats and over 1 lakh in 19 contests.
In only one seat (Chennai Central), the DMK lost by around 45,000 votes. This clearly indicates the intensity of the victory margins of the AIADMK and the overwhelming rout of the DMK alliance candidates. The DMK’s strategic alliance with the Dalit parties Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi and Puthiya Tamizhagam and the Muslim party, Manithaneya Makkal Katchi did not help the party in consolidating either the Muslim or Dalit vote. The AIADMK was able to consolidate its position among the OBCs, Dalits and tribals. This explains its high vote share in the Gounder-dominated Kongu region, Kallar-dominated Kaveri delta region and the Thevar-dominated South.
The AIADMK was able to maintain its lead uniformly both in urban and rural Tamil Nadu. It is interesting to note that the party did well among first-time voters (37 per cent). It is also important to record that NOTA was the second highest preference (20 per cent) among those who were recording their franchise for the first time. The BJP-led alliance, which was hoping to cash in on the Modi factor, seems to have met with limited success, though its vote share remains impressive for a new alliance.
The Tamil Nadu verdict is clearly a vote of endorsement for the AIADMK, placing it as the largest State-based party in the Lok Sabha. Many would term it as a strong vote of no-confidence against the Congress and the DMK with the BJP alliance still seen as testing the waters.
Two observations deserve mention with respect to the outcome in Tamil Nadu. One is that the BJP has not yet been able to make a dent in the highly regionalised politics of the State and second, the huge victory of the AIADMK would mean an important role for the party at the national level, irrespective of whether it aligns with the new ruling dispensation or chooses to join the non-BJP forces.
(P. Ramajayam is assistant professor at Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchi. Sandeep Shastri is Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Jain University, Bangalore.)