Hailing the verdict as ‘historic’, ruling AIADMK partymen attribute the electoral success primarily to the vote base the party enjoys among the rural population and women.
While various factors have been at play, the AIADMK government’s welfare schemes that have reached almost every rural household has helped the party to retain its vote share. “Every family in villages has benefited from at least one of the welfare schemes,” says Dheeran, party spokesperson. The women who have voted in larger numbers in this election have also given the AIADMK a resounding victory, he adds.
“There was really no anti-incumbency wave. No one has been affected in the AIADMK rule,” says an MLA of the ruling party. On the contrary, in the previous DMK rule, widespread land grabbing affected thousands of families, he charged.
Sankaradas, another party spokesperson, says that the AIADMK election manifesto could have been a clincher as people now believe that the party supremo will fulfil all her promises, as she has done in the past. The party had promised, among other things, two-wheelers at 50 per cent of the cost for women, cell phones and 100 units of electricity free for domestic consumers. “To us, this victory is better than MGR’s as this is the first time the party has contested in all the 234 constituencies without any major alliance and won,” he says. In a cliff-hanger of an election, observers said that Ms. Jayalalithaa’s decision to contest all the 234 seats on ‘Two Leaves’ symbol proved to be a master stroke.
Local factors have also been at play and it is here that the DMK could learn a lesson or two.
In Theni district, the AIADMK has captured all the four constituencies. “In Cumbum, we faced difficulties initially. But eventually, setting aside their differences, the party leaders worked jointly to ensure a clean sweep,” says a local leader.
In Coimbatore district, the DMK was found to be wanting in election work. Initially, the DMK had an edge but closer to the elections, the ruling party worked overtime on the ground, say sources. In such districts where the AIADMK is traditionally strong, the DMK is yet to groom trust-worthy leaders, said observers.
Prohibition not an issue?
The DMK’s main poll plank of total prohibition was not rooted in reality. On the contrary, Jayalalithaa’s promise of implementing phased prohibition was much more realistic and plausible, says an AIADMK MP. In her first election campaign meeting, the AIADMK supremo said first the working hours of Tasmac liquor shops would be reduced. The number of shops would be reduced later followed by the closure of bars. She also promised that rehabilitation centres would be opened. Many observers felt that this was a reasonable approach, ensuring that the huge volume in revenues from liquor sales were not wiped out overnight, a crucial factor if the AIADMK were to keep its fancy electoral promises.
Some like Pala. Karuppiah, who was removed from the AIADMK recently, thinks that it is the fractured opposition that has handed over the reins back to Ms. Jayalalithaa. “There is a direct connect between the AIADMK and the people that many of us seem to have missed,” said a political observer in a television debate. It is possible that rural connect and the support of women voters that have given Ms. Jayalalithaa her fourth term in office.