Lok Sabha polls 2024: Will DMK reverse its 2021 setback in western Tamil Nadu?

Except the 2019 polls when it won all eight Lok Sabha riding on the anti-Modi sentiments, the DMK’s performance in western Tamil Nadu has been underwhelming in the past few elections.
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 11:16 IST
Last Updated : 17 April 2024, 11:16 IST

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Salem (Tamil Nadu): In the 2021 assembly polls, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) swept every part of the state except western Tamil Nadu or Kongu region where the AIADMK-BJP alliance won 33 of the 50 seats, significantly contributing to its surprise tally of 75 seats. In Coimbatore district, the ruling DMK and its ally Congress lost all 10 seats to the AIADMK and BJP. 

Except the 2019 polls when it won all eight Lok Sabha riding on the anti-Modi sentiments, the DMK’s performance here has been underwhelming in the past few elections. On the other hand, it is the western region that has been fueling the AIADMK’s engine, making it a stronghold of the principal opposition party. 

It is also here that the BJP has a base of its own and believes that its growth in Tamil Nadu will begin from the Kongu region. Will the BJP make inroads into the Gounders who have always supported the AIADMK and kept the saffron party in good humour. 

It is in this backdrop that the intense triangular fight between DMK, AIADMK, and BJP – they broke their alliance in 2023 -- in the April 19 elections assume significance in the region comprising of Salem, Namakkal, Karur, Erode, Nilgiris (SC), Tiruppur, Pollachi, and Coimbatore seats. 

Except in Namakkal, Karur, and Erode where the fight is confined to the DMK alliance and the AIADMK, the contest is truly triangular in the other five constituencies where the BJP has fielded some of its prominent faces including its state unit chief K Annamalai (Coimbatore), Union Minister of State L Murugan (Nilgiris), and A P Muruganandam (Tiruppur). 

The DMK wants to reverse the 2021 trend by winning big in the Kongu region and assert its authority, ahead of the 2026 assembly elections. That’s why the DMK is contesting in six of the eight seats, including Coimbatore, which was allotted to CPI (M) in 2019, where it has fielded Ganapathi P Rajkumar, a former AIADMK man. 

The ruling party believes the ground work done by former minister V Senthil Balaji from 2021 to 2023 before he was sent to jail will come handy in winning the confidence of the people of the region. 

Things look good for AIADMK too in the region with its party candidates in almost all constituencies making the fight very intense and tough in its long-held bastion that is dominated by Gounders, a caste that had always supported the party in the region. The party is pretty confident of keeping intact its core vote bank and hopes to win at least a couple of seats if not many, while being cautious about not losing its ground to the BJP. 

For the BJP, the goal is to increase its vote share across the state with a special focus on Kongu region and register victories in at least Coimbatore and Nilgiris. However, the well-entrenched Dravidian parties and their traditional votes are coming in their way, though the BJP boasts of a proper structure in many districts. 

“The BJP may not win in Pollachi, and Tiruppur but the party’s vote percentage will see a huge increase in these constituencies, besides Nilgiris. We see a lot of people openly saying that they are voting for the BJP. It remains to be seen which Dravidian party gets affected due to the shift,” Balamurugan, a bank employee, told DH in Pollachi.

The general refrain in Tiruppur is that incumbent K Subbarayan, who is the CPI candidate, faces anti-incumbency but the alliance’s strength could help him pull through though the AIADMK may be performing very well in segments like Gobichettipalayam due to influence of former minister K A Sengottaiyan. People also believe BJP’s Muruganandam will score a “good percentage” of votes due to BJP’s increasing influence in the region. 

Erode, where AIADMK’s ‘Aatral’ Ashok Kumar and DMK’s K E Prakash are contesting, is an intense two-cornered fight with BJP’s ally Tamil Maanila Congress not able to match the Dravidian majors. 

“None can say who will win in Erode. The DMK has a good base in the district and its candidate is also a known face. But the AIADMK man is popular since a foundation that he owns runs low-cost canteens. The winner is hard to predict here,” Gunasekaran, an auto driver, told DH in Erode. 

Same is the case in Namakkal and Karur where the BJP candidates are trailing behind with the fight being confined to candidates of AIADMK and DMK alliances. 

Salem, the home town of AIADMK general secretary Edappadi K Palaniswami, is witnessing a triangular contest between two Dravidian majors and PMK, BJP ally, which wields considerable influence among Vanniyars.

In Nilgiris, former Union Minister A Raja of the DMK is hoping for a hattrick from the reserved constituency as he hopes for a vertical split in the votes of Arunthathiyar, a sub-caste of the Dalit community, as both BJP’s Murugan and AIADMK candidate D Lokesh Tamilselvan hail from the caste. 

While the DMK and AIADMK continue to enjoy good support in the constituencies that fall in the plains, the BJP seems to be making inroads in the hills. 

In Karur, Congress’ S Jothimani is involved in a tough battle with AIADMK’s K R L Thangavel, who is hoping the “anti-incumbency” against the incumbent MP (Jothimani) will help him. The Congress campaign may be missing Senthil Balaji, who played an important role in the DMK-led alliance winning all six seats in the district in 2021 assembly polls. 

The electoral contest in Coimbatore is riveting as it has all elements of a political potboiler. BJP’s campaign is focused solely on Coimbatore getting a “young MP” whose voice will be heard in Parliament and the party is going to the town saying Annamalai will be the “hotline” between the people of the industrial city and Prime Minister Modi. 

While the DMK’s campaign is focused on “flawed” policies of the BJP, including the implementation of GST, the AIADMK blames both the DMK and BJP for “killing” MSMEs and seeks votes by flaunting “good work” its government did from 2011 to 2021.

Published 17 April 2024, 11:16 IST

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