Tamil Nadu

Tamil Nadu elections | Tagging along with the big brother

Ever since the AIADMK won the 2016 Assembly election with a margin of about one percentage point over the DMK-led front, several leaders and observers have been insisting that the outcome would have been different had there been no Makkal Nala Kootani (MNK — People’s Welfare Front), led by DMDK founder Vijayakant.

But as the State is gearing up to face the Assembly poll in a month, all constituents of the now-defunct MNK have been making all out efforts to secure a respectable tally of seats with either of the camps led by the State’s principal parties — the AIADMK and the DMK.

While the DMDK and TMC (Moopanar) are negotiating with the ruling party, four of its former allies — the CPI, the CPI(M), the MDMK and the Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) — are bargaining with the DMK. The PMK, which tried its luck independently five years ago, has now been allotted 23 seats in the AIADMK-led front.

The 2016 election saw the AIADMK bagging 135 seats with a vote share of 40.77% and the DMK-led front securing 97 seats with a 39.76% vote share. [The election for two seats was held later.] The MNK, which polled about 26 lakh votes with about 6% vote share, came a cropper. Not only did it not capture a single seat, it also forfeited deposit in 224 seats. The position of the PMK was marginally different with the party being able to retain deposit in 20 seats. Needless to say, it did not bag any seat.

Smaller parties can go it alone once or twice. But if they do that even after two unsuccessful attempts, their workers will abandon them for greener pastures, said a senior AIADMK leader, who returned to the party years ago after working for a few such partiesin the intervening period. Panruti S. Ramachandran, former Minister, said smaller parties were having tie-ups with bigger parties to keep themselves “politically fit”. If any of them keep experimenting in facing the electorate without the support of the DMK or the AIADMK, they will have to suffer defeat “permanently,” he pointed out.

The average size of the electorate per Assembly constituency is an important factor, and smaller parties can hardly gloss it over. There are 194 constituencies whose electorates are in the 2-3 lakh range. There are 140 constituencies with bigger electorates than the average size of 2.67 lakh. Going by the voter turnout data since 1996, it can be assumed that the State will have a 70% turnout this time. In that case, on average, around 1.87 lakh voters will turn up at the polling booths in each constituency.

As on date, there are only two parties in the State with at least 25% core vote base in every constituency, R. Subash, a political analyst, said. This, along with support from their allies and an ability to attract neutral voters, makes them formidable. “This is why Tamil Nadu has not been able to have a credible third force,” observed Mr. Subash, adding that people did not opt for the MDMK-led front in the 1996 Assembly election and the alliance, comprising the CPI(M) and Janata Dal, could net only two seats and a 7.89% vote share.

“All said and done, the DMK and the AIADMK have established an extensive network across the State, which is a prerequisite for any party before aspiring to go it alone. It is not that easy for any other party to build a substantial base here. We, the BJP, have been making efforts to have ours here and the election result will reveal our strength,” said L. Ganesan, senior BJP leader. He pointed out that only those unable to make it to either of the camps were forming a third front.

But P. Ramajayam, academician, said smaller parties had to align themselves with the two principal parties as they were in search of recognition. Apart from obtaining a certain number of seats and votes for meeting legal requirements to retain their symbols, the organisations gained recognition enormously from their workers and the general public when they were able to send their representatives to Parliament or the Assembly. Citing the example of the Kongunadu Makkal Desiya Katchi (KMDK) in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, whose candidate contested on the DMK symbol, he said this had made a huge impact on the social constituency being served by the party.

However, the CPI(M) said it had certain tasks cut out for itself while aligning itself with the DMK. The tasks were to carry on the political fight against the BJP, which, according to party leader K. Balakrishnan, was against federalism, secularism and the Constitution, and to present an alternative thought, through the legislature, on a host of matters of political and social importance. .

As in 2016, this time too smaller parties such as MNM and NTK are making another attempt at carving out an independent space for themselves, unmindful of the enormity of the challenge.

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Printable version | Apr 17, 2021 10:23:27 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/tagging-along-with-the-big-brother/article33984199.ece

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