Vijayakanth could be Jaya's nemesis

Vijayakanth could be Jaya's nemesis

Vijayakanth could be Jaya's nemesis

The Assembly elections in Tamil Nadu which is barely three months away, has it’s own complexities for the political parties, including the regional heavyweights like the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and a highly withered Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which is enmeshed in family intrigues. The sole aim of film star Vijayakanth, who founded the Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam (DMDK), is to spoil J Jayalalitha’s chances of becoming the chief minister for a record fifth time.

Before the torrential rains in December, which resulted in massive floods, Jayalalitha was anticipating a runaway victory. However, flooding in the four districts of Chennai, Kadalur, Tiruvallur and Kanchipuram has inevitably dented her image. Tamil Nadu watchers say it could dent the party’s chances in 40 seats coming under these districts.

The AIADMK has to secure a majority from the remaining 194 seats in the 234-member Assembly. There is a perception in certain quarters for change. At the same time, Jayalalitha’s triumph at the hustings appears certain. This is largely due to the DMK being in a shamble in southern Tamil Nadu where patriarch M Karunanidhi’s elder son Azhagiri ensured the party’s rout in all the nine Lok Sabha seats in that region in the 2014 polls. The problem is unresolved as Stalin is Karunanidhi’s heir apparent. Azhagiri is unwilling to be the underdog and has the capacity to harm the party’s interests.

While the AIADMK’s share of votes climbed to 43 per cent five years ago, it may drop to 32 to 33 per cent this time. On the other hand, the DMK’s vote share in the last general elections got reduced to 18 per cent, while the BJP, DMDK and the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) managed to secure 19 per cent, though they drew a blank in the Lok Sabha elections.

 Then BJP’s prime ministerial nominee Narendra Modi took the saffron outfit past the majority mark on its own for the first time in the Lok Sabha. Along with allies, the NDA crossed the rubicon of 300 and finished with a tally of 340. Be that as it may, one of the factors that ranged against the BJP is that major regional parties in Tamil Nadu are against aligning with them because of its controversial Hindutva agenda and communal tendencies which keep coming to the fore.

Minority votes crucial

Tamil Nadu has a sizeable minority population of 18 per cent and ignoring their sentiments can be suicidal at the hustings. Jayalalitha is not averse to having friendly contests with the BJP and steering clear of an electoral understanding which can alienate the minorities. It is still unclear if her party will back the Centre in the Rajya Sabha over various issues plaguing the NDA regime.

The Congress, Vaiko’s Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), PMK and other smaller groups, even if they manage to knit themselves together, appear to be inconsequential in the prevailing scheme of things. The two Dravidian parties have ruled Tamil Nadu for nearly five decades and enjoyed a vote share of 30 per cent each for an interminably long period. That equation is fast changing and the AIADMK has forged ahead considerably in its vote share compared to the DMK. However, DMDK’s Vijayakanth is keeping all his cards close to his chest regarding an alliance.

The BJP finds itself in dire straits in Tamil Nadu. With its chances bleak, the saffron party is not averse to enticing Vijayakanth into the saffron fold with the bait of chief ministership. The BJP desperately wants to make an impact in Tamil Nadu in the medium to long term by breaking into the Dravidian forces. It is looking at the 2019 Lok Sabha elections for making a concerted bid to make its presence felt in Tamil Nadu. For all practical intents and purposes, the saffron outfit appears to have thrown in the towel this time.

Modi’s invincibility at the hustings after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections has been busted in the Assembly elections in Delhi last year. Strategic blunders cost the BJP dearly and paid the price with a mind boggling defeat to the fledgling Aam Aadmi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal. It was a major embarrassment to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The BJP’s rainbow alliance in the southern state in the 2014 general elections came a cropper.

The Congress finds itself isolated after G K Vasan, son of late G K Moopanar, left and revived the Tamil Maanila Congress. Studies show whenever the vote share of the Congress has dropped below 20 per cent in a state it has failed to resurrect itself. A case in point is Tamil Nadu as well as West Bengal. For now, it is likely to be a four or five cornered contest in most of the Assembly constituencies which will prove advantageous to the AIADMK.   

(The writer is a senior journalist and a commentator)