STATE OF PLAY Comment

It is advantage DMK and its allies in Tamil Nadu urban local body polls

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 05/02/2022: Election officer scrutinising the nomination papers for local body election at Shenoy Nagar Zonal office on Saturday. Photo: VEDHAN M / THE HINDU

CHENNAI, TAMIL NADU, 05/02/2022: Election officer scrutinising the nomination papers for local body election at Shenoy Nagar Zonal office on Saturday. Photo: VEDHAN M / THE HINDU

Elections make or mar alliances. In recent months, the AIADMK, which was ousted from power in the State in May last year after a 10-year reign, would have realised the value of this saying.

If the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), which fought the Assembly elections together with the AIADMK, left the alliance in September, weeks ahead of rural local bodies elections in nine districts, it was the turn of another ally, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), to leave the coalition in the run-up to the February 19 civic polls, covering 12,838 wards in 649 local bodies, including 21 municipal corporations.

While there was some bad blood between the two parties after the PMK chose to walk out of the alliance, in the case of the BJP, there has been no apparent rancour, even though the development arose as a sequel to the failure in seat-sharing talks. In fact, even when the BJP’s floor leader in the Assembly, Nainar Nagenthiran, made a scathing attack against the AIADMK a few weeks ago, the State unit president K. Annamalai immediately sought to make amends with the senior ally. His explanation seemed to have been approved by the AIADMK too, as the party’s spokesperson and former Fisheries Minister D. Jayakumar asserted that the failure to reach a mutually acceptable accord on the sharing of seats of the urban local bodies had nothing to do with Mr. Nagenthiran’s observation.

The main difference between the two parties, which at times called themselves “natural allies”, was over the number of seats to be earmarked for the national party. While the AIADMK did not want to go beyond 10% of the seats, the BJP, which was provided with 9% of the wards in the previous local bodies polls, had demanded 20% in general. The AIADMK would have been prepared to give a greater share of seats in Kanniyakumari district, as the DMK did for the Congress, but it was not ready to accommodate the BJP’s demands in the Coimbatore and Tiruppur districts in the western region, one of its traditional bastions. However, what remains unanswered is why the Dravidian major chose to adopt such a tough stand despite not having any ally of considerable strength. One possible explanation is that it is desperate to shake off the tag of being the BJP’s ‘B team’, which its adversaries have attached to it.

The BJP, which has been struggling to expand its footprint in the State, views the current round of local bodies polls as an opportunity to make its presence felt. Perhaps, this was why a large number of its functionaries, ranging from secretaries of district units to members of the core committee, preferred to go it alone even before the seat-sharing talks with the AIADMK broke down. One important reason for this is that the party wants to test its real strength in urban areas, where the elections are going to be held.

The eventual political fallout of the development is not hard for anyone to guess. The DMK-led combine has remained intact and if one is to go only by arithmetic strength, its electoral prospects appear bright. But polls are decided not merely on the basis of arithmetic. Political chemistry, inter-party coordination within a formation, and cohesion in the ranks of the lead party of any alliance are equally important. There are reports of discord among the constituents of the front led by the ruling party with regard to seat-sharing. Also, the DMK faced a controversy recently over the distribution of free Pongal gift hampers through the public distribution system. But with the Opposition camp divided, it is now advantage DMK and its allies.

ramakrishnan.t@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jun 28, 2022 5:34:16 pm | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/op-ed/it-is-advantage-dmk-and-its-allies/article38403733.ece