AIADMK alliance faces TTV heat in South TN

AIADMK alliance faces TTV heat in South TN

 T T V Dhinakaran (Image courtesy Twitter)

 Maybe the AIADMK read the writing on the wall, when it allotted seven out of 10 seats in Southern Tamil Nadu, where it wields considerable influence, to alliance partners.

The writing is that a considerable chunk of its traditional vote base, nurtured by party founder M G Ramachandran and J Jayalalithaa for almost four decades, might be lost to rebel leader T T V Dhinakaran in this election.

The AIADMK is contesting only in three seats – Madurai, Theni and Tirunelveli – while the BJP has been allotted Sivaganga, Thoothukudi, Ramanathapuram and Kanniyakumari, Tenkasi (Puthiya Tamizhagam), Dindigul (PMK) and Virudhunagar (DMDK).

Dhinakaran enjoys considerable influence in a few districts in Southern Tamil Nadu, where a sizeable number of partymen have sided with him. He also seems to enjoy the support of the dominant Mukulathor community, that has firmly stood behind the AIADMK for decades.

The AIADMK has fielded dynasts in all the three constituencies it is contesting, pinning all hopes on personal clout and caste calculations. Its alliance partners are also finding it quite tough to ward off a split of the votes on the ground.

A field visit suggests that the anti-Modi sentiment is not just a social media phenomenon, but is evident on the ground too, with people talking about economic policies like GST and demonetisation. 

While the AIADMK is split, its alliance partners – the BJP, DMDK and Puthiya Tamizhagam – command influence only in certain pockets in Southern Tamil Nadu, posing serious challenge to candidates from these parties.

Except in Kanyakumari, the BJP lacks a robust party machinery, forcing it to depend entirely on AIADMK cadre and leaders in other three constituencies in the South.

The BJP’s 10 % reservation for EWS in the general category has cut ice with a few upper castes, who are enthusiastic about voting for Narendra Modi. The party is also seeking votes by boasting “excellent infrastructure” that it had brought to the southern districts, besides laying foundation stone for AIIMS.

The BJP is facing an up-hill task in all four constituencies that it is contesting from this region with Kanniyakumari, which gave the party its only MP from the state, also appearing tilting towards the Congress due to consolidation of minority votes and anti-incumbency against incumbent Pon Radhakrishnan, the lone Union Minister in the Narendra Modi government from the state.

On the other hand, the DMK-Congress combine has done pretty well whenever they have had an alliance in the past. Besides the arithmetic of alliances, polarisation along religious lines would immensely benefit the DMK-Congress combine in at least Thoothukudi, Kanniyakumari, Theni and Tirunelveli seats.

The Christian minorities seem to stand firmly behind the DMK-Congress combine, while the AMMK, led by Dhinakaran is pulling all stops to make inroads into the Muslim vote bank.

The AMMK eating into the Muslim votes could also spell trouble for the DMK-Congress combine in a few regions

The Dhinakaran factor 

The Dhinakaran factor is also proving troublesome for the AIADMK-BJP combine in at least four constituencies – Theni, Ramanathapuram, Madurai and Sivaganga – as these seats have a sizeable population of Mukulathors, the community to which Dhinakaran belongs.

A vertical split of the AIADMK votes and the Mukulathors would only help the DMK-Congress alliance. The BJP is trying to hard to prevent a major split but might not be very successful, going by assessment on the ground.

In Dindigul, Thoothukudi, Kanniyakumari and Virudhunagar, the Congress-DMK alliance appears to be the frontrunner, while the AIADMK looks formidable only in Tirunelveli, where its strongman Manoj P H Pandian is contesting. Then again, the DMK candidate in this seat is strong too and the contest may go down to the wire.

While the DMDK has fielded its nominee in Virudhunagar, the PMK, which hardly has any base in the South, is contesting from Dindigul.

The DMK alliance also hopes to benefit from the perceived split of votes of dominant Mukulathor community between the AIADMK combine and AMMK. The AMMK’s influence could certainly be high in constituencies where candidates of alliance partners, especially BJP, are contesting since the Dhinakaran camp is working to wean then away.

Interesting battles 

Theni will be the mother of all battles in this election, since Dhinakaran has fielded his lieutenant Thanga Tamilselvan to take on O Panneerselvam’s son O P Raveendranath.

Both belonging to the Mukulathor community. Even though they hail from different sub-castes, the rivalry between Tamilselvan and OPS might help the Congress’ nominee E V K S Elangovan, who is banking on the votes from other communities and minorities.

Dhinakaran’s choice of candidates, especially in Theni, Madurai and Ramanathapuram, where DMK’s ally IUML is contesting, have made the contest interesting.

The vote split between AIADMK’s Raj Sathiyan and AMMK, which has fielded former Speaker Kalimuthu’s son David Annadurai, might come as music to the ears of the CPM, whose nominee is acclaimed writer and Sahitya Akademi winner Su Venkatesan.