Apart from the fatigue of two terms and the public’s general dissatisfaction with the State government on various counts, one of the major reasons for the AIADMK alliance’s disastrous performance seems to have been the presence of the BJP in the alliance. The BJP, it seems, ended up being far more of an electoral liability for the AIADMK+ than an asset, and dragged their seat tally down. Not only does the election result bear this out, given that the AIADMK-led alliance did far worse in the BJP-contested seats than seats contested by its other constituents, the evidence from our post-poll survey also confirms this.
A negative sentiment
According to the Lokniti-CSDS post-poll survey, twice as many voters in the State held a negative sentiment about the BJP than a positive one. On being asked whether the BJP’s rise will be detrimental or good for the State’s social fabric, four of every 10 said it would be bad and less than two of every 10 said it would be good for the State. Four of every 10 felt it would not make a difference or refused to take a stand on the issue (Table 1). Significantly, not only was this apprehension about the BJP seen among the DMK alliance’s voters, close to half of whom described the BJP’s growth in Tamil Nadu as being bad; a plurality of AIADMK+’s voters also held a more negative than positive sentiment about the BJP. Voters of most other parties and fronts (barring MNM+) held a similar opinion although their degree of opposition to the BJP varied.
The anti-BJP sentiment was also found to be quite widespread across all regions of Tamil Nadu with respondents in the Cauvery delta region expressing the strongest apprehensions about the BJP. The only region where the sentiment against the BJP was less intense was the western region – here, many showed high ambivalence on being asked the question and did not take a strong stand either way (Table 2). This is also the region where the AIADMK alliance ended up doing much better.
The strongest apprehension about the BJP’s rise was seen among Christians, followed by Dalits, Thevars and the upper castes. Muslims, however, were found to be quite indifferent (Table 2). A stark difference in opinion was also noticed when one disaggregated the responses by Tamil and non-Tamil speaking voters – the former were 10 points more likely to view the BJP as being bad for the State’s social fabric than the latter. While it is difficult to make an exact estimate as to how much damage the partnership with the BJP did to the AIADMK+ alliance’s prospects, the post-poll survey indicates that about three of every 10 of the AIADMK alliance’s traditional supporters viewed the BJP as being bad for the State and when one looks at their vote preferences, over a quarter of them ended up voting for the DMK alliance instead of remaining as supporters of the AIADMK alliance.
The AIADMK was banking on the BJP’s strength as the dominant party at the Centre and hoping that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s appeal would extend to Tamil Nadu. However, the party seems to have badly miscalculated on this count.
Shreyas Sardesai is a Research Associate at Lokniti-CSDS, Delhi