Poles apart from earlier polls

Poles apart from earlier polls

Poles apart from earlier polls

For the first time in its poll history, Tamil Nadu is all set for a multi-cornered contest in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.

Both the Dravidian parties -- the ruling AIADMK led by its general secretary J Jayalalitha and the opposition DMK headed by its president M Karunanidhi are battling hard to retain their hold over the electorate with BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi hard selling the party-led NDA as the viable alternative while the Congress and Left parties have been left isolated.

Whether the “Modi wave” will play a role or not, the very idea of the saffron party leading a six-party alliance in the state itself is seen by observers as a novel situation as both the national parties -- Congress and BJP -- hitherto used to ride piggyback on either of the Dravidian parties.

The fact that Jayalalitha, seen as a potential post-poll ally of BJP owing to her cordial personal equations with Modi, has started asking the voters not to vote for BJP appears to be a late realisation that the anti-Congress and anti-DMK votes may go to the NDA.

In addition, the significance of the BJP and its allies actor Vijayakanth-led DMDK, Dr Ramadoss-led PMK and Vaiko-led MDMK alliance is the possibility of these parties transferring their votes to the alliance partners.

The BJP will be counting on DMDK and PMK to bring in votes from the Vanniyar community in western and northern districts including Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Cuddalore and Vellore.

Though minorities plus Dalits account for 30-plus per cent in the state’s electorate, their loyalty spreads across various political parties.

Altogether, going by the statistics of the 2009 elections, the parties in the DMDK-BJP alliance can claim an arithmetic total of about 24 per cent, which may expand when they fight as a front.

According to the latest Election Commission figures, the ruling AIADMK has 38 per cent vote share and the DMK 22.5 per cent.

Cong friendless

On the other hand, seemingly friendless in Tamil Nadu to fight the general election and with a vote share of about 9 per cent, is the Congress, which fought the previous elections in alliance with the DMK.

The Congress had no option but to contest alone even as its senior leaders including Union ministers P Chidambaram and G K Vasan and former minister Jayanthi Natarajan decided not to fight the polls.

Even small political outfits in the state feel that Congress has gained a negative image, particularly on its stand on Sri Lankan Tamils issue and the release of seven convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.

Another major worry for the AIADMK and DMK is that some of their key leaders are facing a multi-cornered contest in several places.

Former Union minister and DMK leader T R Baalu is facing a five-cornered contest in Thanjavur with tough opponents. Similarly, 2G scam accused and former Union minister A Raja is trying hard to retain the Nilgiris seat following stiff competition from other parties.

Former Union minister Anbumani Ramadoss of PMK, contesting in Dharmapuri, is also a facing similar fate.

However, former Union minister Dayanidhi Maran might have a slight edge in Chennai Central since his opponents including AIADMK’s S R Vijayakumar are not familiar faces.

AIADMK chief Jayalalithaa believes any multi-cornered contest will prove beneficial to her party and provide her the numbers to be able to play an important role when it comes to government formation at the Centre.

Three AIADMK sitting MPs are facing a multi-cornered in their respective constituencies.

With the focus of Jayalalitha’s election campaign focussed on the 2G spectrum scam, DMK chief Karunanidhi and son M K Stalin are attacking the  AIADMK supremo, both at the administrative and personal level including her wealth case in Bangalore.

They keep talking about continuing power cuts, which she had promised to rectify in three months before returning to power in the 2011 Assembly elections.

The Tamil Nadu poll alliance history clearly indicates that the DMK–the erstwhile Tamil Maanila Congress–CPI front made history by winning all the 39 seats in the 1996 election, a feat that was repeated by the DMK-led alliance comprising the Congress, the MDMK, the PMK, the CPI and the CPI (M) in  the 2004 elections.

In the 2009 general elections, the DMK combine, including the Congress, the VCK and the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) bagged 27 seats, while the AIADMK alliance comprising the CPI (M), the CPI and the MDMK secured 12 seats.

The direct contest between the AIADMK and the DMK in 35 out of the 39 constituencies has made the ensuing elections perplexing.

With the Congress and the Communists contesting alone and ‘blowing away’ a total 10 per cent vote share -- large and decisive by any account -- the fight for Tamil Nadu (and the lone seat from Puducherry), totalling 40 seats, it could be a close-shave in terms of victory margins for many.

In addition, the formation of a strong BJP-led third front posing a master challenge to the entrenched AIADMK and DMK cannot be ruled out.

With a five-cornered contest in 18 seats where the Left parties have their nominees where Aam Aadmi Party has serious contenders, including anti-nuclear activist S P Udayakumar in Kanniyakumari, the elections this time is as none other in recent times in Tamil Nadu.

Neither the political parties, nor candidates or their campaign managers have handled anything like this in the past.

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