Editorial

Least surprise: On Tamil Nadu local body poll results

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The DMK remains the front runner in Tamil Nadu, but the AIADMK is fast catching up

The only surprise in the December 2019 elections to rural local bodies in Tamil Nadu was that there was no surprise. Held after eight years, the polls, which were due in October 2016, were relatively peaceful, with around 77% of voters — nearly two crore people — exercising their franchise in 27 of 36 districts to elect their representatives for village panchayats, panchayat unions and district panchayats. The results reaffirmed that much of the State’s political space continues to remain with the DMK and the ruling AIADMK. Some churn was thought possible in the light of the debate on the perceived vacuum in political leadership in the State. The DMK-led front — it won 38 of the 39 Lok Sabha seats last year — has retained its lead over its arch rival with a higher tally of wards in panchayat unions and district panchayats, the elections to which are on political lines. However, the fact that the AIADMK, an important ally of the Bharatiya Janata Party, has been able to bridge some of the gap with the DMK was also in keeping with the results in the Assembly by-elections in October last. Clearly, both parties have reasons to believe that their prospects in the 2021 Assembly polls are good. Though the ruling party appears to have regained much of its support base lost during the parliamentary polls — this being the first State-wide electoral contest in the last seven months — the reality that it finished behind its key adversary in the overall tally of the local bodies’ wards is a situation that will not be to the liking of its leadership; the perception is that the AIADMK is traditionally stronger in the rural areas. Finally, political mobilisation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019, is believed to be a factor that influenced voters against the ruling party.

The State Election Commission (SEC), which conducted itself reasonably well with new measures such as the use of flying squads and closed circuit television sets, should stick to its plan of holding the polls to urban local bodies including the Greater Chennai Corporation and abide by the Supreme Court’s direction of completing the poll process for rural local bodies in the remaining nine districts within three months. It should note that the reason behind the Court granting more time is for carrying out fresh delimitation of wards in five new districts. The panel should also ensure that the poll process is always fair and credible. It would be in the fitness of things for the State government to assist the SEC in ensuring the early completion of the next round of polls. Any delay will not reflect well on the SEC and the ruling party. For the AIADMK, it will be an occasion for course correction. For the DMK, the message is that it cannot be complacent. It is the front runner, but the AIADMK is regaining momentum.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 3:34:41 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/least-surprise/article30487609.ece

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