Fight between two Dravidian giants likely in TN Assembly polls

In a bid to adopt Bihar's recent election strategy of forming a grand alliance that won the polls, the Opposition parties in Tamil Nadu including the BJP, seriously attempted to gather all political outfits under one umbrella to defeat the major Dravidian parties  – the ruling AIADMK and the DMK – both of which have ruled the state for several decades.

The BJP is expected to lead this alliance. A Third Front was formed recently - People's Welfare Front (PWF) led by Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). The Left parties are expected to join the bandwagon, too.

The coming together of these parties is also expected to include caste-based outfits such as Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) and the Tamil Maanila Congress (TMC), led by G K Vasan, who quit the Congress and floated his new party recently.

With the Tamil Nadu assembly elections due in May, the Third Front (PWF) is gaining momentum with Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), led by actor-turned-politician Vijayakanth, evincing interest in joining the ally. A meeting between Vijayakanth and Vaiko was held in this regard recently to discuss the political issues and to work out the strategies to contest the assembly elections.

“We have asked Vijayakanth to join our outfit. We hope that his party will ally with us soon,” MDMK leader Vaiko said.  He also said that PWF has explained to Vijayakanth that there are “bright chances” of the alliance “forming the government in the state” if his party would join the mega coalition.

In addition, Union Minister and BJP senior leader Pon Radhakrishnan also met Vijayakanth and asked him to join the party, which is  expected to add strength to the PWF. The PWF also made an official announcement that it would contest the coming Assembly polls together.

The other parties, which joined PWF, include Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK), the largest Dalit party in the state. It is led by former Lok Sabha member Thol Thirumavalavan. The PWF also launched the draft of its Common Minimum Programme (CMP) ahead of the Assembly elections.

Vaiko and other leaders of the front, including CPI State Secretary Mutharasan and CPI(M) State Secretary G Ramakrishnan, said at the time of polls, the CMP pro-mises to launch agitations aga-inst the globalisation, liberalisation and privatisation polices of the Centre which was affecting the interests of the people of Tamil Nadu.

Political activity is also gathering momentum in the Congress camp after the recent visit of party's vice president Rahul Gandhi who interacted with the farmers in Trichy. The Congress's ally at the Centre for 10 years during the UPA government, the DMK has officially announced that the doors are open to the national party.

Nearly three years after snapping ties with Congress, DMK chief M Karunanidhi recently said that the national party would be invited to join the alliance led by his outfit for the upcoming elections.

An indication to this effect had come as early as in July 2015, when DMK Treasurer M K Stalin and Congress state unit chief EVKS Elangovan had said that the two parties would “work together” to protect the interests of the people of Tamil Nadu, in particular the oppressed sections.

The DMK had, in early 2013, snapped ties with the Congress over the Sri Lankan Tamils issue. The strain in relations between the two parties had also come against the backdrop of the arrest of former Union minister A Raja and Karunanidhi's daughter and Rajya Sabha MP Kanimozhi in the alleged spectrum allocation scam.

On the other hand, the ruling AIADMK has kept its options open with party chief and Chief Minister Jayalalitha saying that she will take appropriate decision at appropriate time.

“We had allied with certain parties during the 2011 assembly elections and contested alone in the parliamentary elections. Likewise, I would like to take a right decision at the right time in the ensuing polls,” she said during her party’s General Council meeting recently. “There is no uniform strategy to win elections,” she added.

Simmering discontentmentIn Tamil Nadu, there are 234 assembly constituencies and 39 Lok Sabha constituencies and one in Puducherry. Although several media reports indicated that Jayalalitha’s AIADMK will sweep the assembly elections like she did in the Lok Sabha polls, all is not well within the ruling party. There is simmering discontentment.

Though the Opposition was strident in its criticism of the handling of the flood relief measures, Jayalalitha, who seems to hold an upper hand, seems to be certain that attractive welfare schemes, which she has launched during the last five years will come to play an important role in putting her in a strong position.

On the other hand, the BJP, which performed well in the Lok Sabha polls, is also trying to improve its vote percentage from its present share of 6 per cent. The visit of BJP senior leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP presi-dent Amit Shah, is an attempt not only to boost the cadres’ moral but also improve its vote share.

Political analysts say that Tamil Nadu is unlikely to witness a direct fight between the two Dravidian majors – the AIADMK and the DMK in the polls.

Although voting pattern in the state is different during the assembly elections as against the Lok Sabha polls, the latest vote share during the 2014 LS polls indicate that the AIADMK enjoyed a vote share of over 40 per cent while the DMK could manage only about 19 per cent.

But with Vijaykanth’s DMDK and Vaiko’s MDMK obtaining a little more than eight per cent vote share in the LS polls, the game can take an interesting turn if they exceed expectations and perform well.
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